BURMA army chief defended a military crackdown in the restive Rakhine state on Monday and has warned against United Nations intervention in the country.
According to Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, the army’s Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing said the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to send an international fact-finding mission – to investigate human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims – threatened national security.
The general also told an Armed Forces Day parade in the capital Naypyidaw the Burmese armed forces would shun the UN mission and insisted the Rohingya did not belong to Burma.
“We have a duty to do what we should do, according to law, and we also have a duty to protect our sovereignty when it is harmed by political, religious and racial problems in the country.” Min Aung Hlaing was quoted as saying.
“We have let the world know we don’t have Rohingya in our country. The ‘Bengalis’ in Rakhine state are not Myanmar (Burma) citizens and they are just people who came to stay in our country.”
The word Bengali is a derogatory term for Rohingya.
A UN report issued last month, based on interviews with 220 Rohingya among the 75,000 who have fled to Bangladesh since October, said Burma’s security forces had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya in a campaign which “very likely” amounts to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.
The country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been widely criticised for her failure to speak out on the plight of the Rohingya.
On Friday, the top UN human rights body agreed to send an international fact-finding mission to investigate the widespread allegations of killings, rape and torture by security forces.
But Burmese ambassador Htin Lynn, speaking before the decision was taken by consensus, rejected the move as “not acceptable”. He said Burma’s national commission had just interviewed alleged victims who fled to Bangladesh and would issue its findings by August.
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution without a vote, brought by the European Union and supported by countries including the United States, which called for “ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims”.
Sectarian violence, which erupted in 2012, has seen dozens of Rohingya killed by vigilante mobs comprising hardline Buddhist nationalist groups and followers, with thousands more displaced.
Conflict in the region escalated when nine Burmese policemen were killed in attacks on security posts near the Bangladesh border on Oct 9 which led to a crackdown by the Burmese armed forces.
About 1.1 million Rohingya people are denied citizenship in Burma. This lack of full citizenship rights means they are subject to other abuses, including restrictions on their freedom of movement, discriminatory limitations on access to education, and arbitrary confiscation of property.
The government withdrew their so-called white cards two years ago as part of a plan to expel them from the country and cancel their citizenship under the 1982 law.
Many in the Buddhist-majority country view the Rohingya as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh.
Additional reporting by Reuters