Myanmar’s Suu Kyi meets Tillerson and UN chief on Rohingya crisis
Myanmar’s Suu Kyi meets Tillerson and UN chief on Rohingya crisis
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Nobel laureate that hundreds of thousands of displaced Muslims who had fled to Bangladesh should be allowed to return to their homes in Myanmar.
“The secretary-general highlighted that strengthened efforts to ensure humanitarian access, safe, dignified, voluntary and sustained returns, as well as true reconciliation between communities, would be essential,” a UN statement said, summarizing comments to Suu Kyi.
Guterres’ comments came hours before Suu Kyi sat down with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Manila.
Washington has been cautious in its statements on the situation in Rakhine, and has avoided outright criticism of Suu Kyi.
Supporters say she must navigate a path between outrage abroad and popular feeling in a majority Buddhist country where most people believe the Rohingya are interlopers.
At a photo opportunity at the top of her meeting with Tillerson, Suu Kyi ignored a journalist who asked if the Rohingya were citizens of Myanmar.
At a later appearance after the meeting, Tillerson — who is headed to Myanmar on Wednesday — was asked by reporters if he “had a message for Burmese leaders.”
He apparently ignored the question, replying only: “Thank you,” according to a pool report of the encounter.
A senior US State Department official later said the top diplomat would press Myanmar’s powerful army chief on Wednesday to halt the violence in Rakhine and make it safe for Rohingya to return.
The official did not comment on whether Tillerson would raise the threat of military sanctions, which US lawmakers have pushed for.
Canada’s Justin Trudeau said he had spoken to Myanmar’s de facto leader.
“I had an extended conversation with... Aung San Suu Kyi, about the plight of the Muslim refugees in Rakhine state,” he told a press conference.
“This is of tremendous concern to Canada and many, many other countries around the world.
“We are always looking at... how we can help, how we can move forward in a way that reduces violence, that emphasises the rule of law and that ensures protection for all citizens,” he said.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have flooded into Bangladesh since late August, and now live in the squalor of the world’s biggest refugee camp.
The crisis erupted after Rohingya rebels attacked police posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, triggering a military crackdown that saw hundreds of villages reduced to ashes and sparked a massive exodus.
The UN says the Myanmar military is engaged in a “coordinated and systematic” attempt to purge the region of Rohingya in what amounts to a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The stream of desperate refugees who escape across the riverine border bring with them stories of rape, murder and the torching of villages by soldiers and Buddhist mobs.
The Burmese government insists military action in Rakhine is a proportionate response to violence by militants.
Following its first official investigation into the crisis, the army published a report this week in which it cleared itself of any abuses.
However, it heavily restricts access to the region by independent journalists and aid groups, and verification of events on the ground is virtually impossible.
Suu Kyi, a former democracy activist, has been lambasted by rights groups for failing to speak up for the Rohingya or condemn festering anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.
Musician and campaigner Bob Geldof on Monday slammed Suu Kyi as a “murderer” and a “handmaiden to genocide,” becoming the latest in a growing line of global figures to disavow the one-time darling of the human rights community.
Supporters say she does not have the power to stop the powerful military, which ruled the country for decades until her party came to power following 2015 elections.
In a summit on Monday night with leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, Guterres also voiced concern about the Rohingya.
He said the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya was a “worrying escalation in a protracted tragedy,” according to the UN statement.
He described the situation as a potential source of instability in the region, as well as radicalization.
Britain identifies Russians suspected of Skripal nerve attack — report
LONDON: British police have identified several Russians who they believe were behind the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the Press Association reported on Thursday, citing a source close to the investigation.
Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, and his daughter Yulia, were found unconscious on a public bench in the British city of Salisbury on March 4.
Britain blamed Russia for the poisonings and identified the poison as Novichok, a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.
After analyzing closed-circuit television, police think several Russians were involved in the attack on the Skripals, who spent weeks in hospital before being spirited to a secret location, Press Association reported.
“Investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack,” the unidentified source close to the investigation said, according to PA.
“They (the investigators) are sure they (the suspects) are Russian,” said the source, adding security camera images had been cross checked with records of people who entered the country.
A police spokesman declined to comment on the report.
After the attack on the Skripals, allies in Europe and the US sided with Britain’s view of the attack and ordered the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of the Cold War.
Russia retaliated by expelling Western diplomats. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement and accused the British intelligence agencies of staging the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.
Mystery surrounds the attack.
The motive for attacking Skripal, an aged Russian traitor who was exchanged in a Kremlin-approved spy swap in 2010, is still unclear, as is the motive for using of an exotic nerve agent which has such overt links to Russia’s Soviet past.
Novichok put the Skripals into a coma, though after weeks in intensive care they were spirited to a secret location for their safety.
“My life has been turned upside down,” Yulia Skripal told Reuters in May. “Our recovery has been slow and extremely painful.”
A British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died this month after coming across a small bottle containing Novichok near the city of Salisbury where the Skripals were struck down. Her partner, Charlie Rowley, is still in hospital.
A British police officer was also injured by Novichok while attending to the Skripals in March.