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Myanmar army, govt hold rare meeting over Rohingya crisis

US urges action on Annan report

June 09, 2018 00:00:00

YANGON, June 08 (AFP): Myanmar's army and civilian leadership held a rare "national security" meeting on Friday over the Rohingya crisis.

They discussed an internal investigation into the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state, the president's office said.

The meeting is the third of its kind since Aung San Suu Kyi's government took power in 2016.

The meeting follows a deal to allow the UN to enter Rakhine to assess when refugees may be able to return.

About 700,000 of the Muslim minority have fled over the border to Bangladesh after the military launched a violent crackdown on Rohingya insurgents last August.

The UN and the US have called it "ethnic cleansing".

Until this week's deal with the UN, Myanmar had dragged its feet for months over the repatriation of the stateless minority. Myanmar was insisting the region was safe for their return but refused access of outsiders there to evaluate conditions.

Pressure is also mounting from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is due to discuss on June 20 whether to launch an investigation into the crackdown.

Myanmar, which denies the ethnic cleansing allegations, has dismissed the move.

It is not a signatory or member of the Rome Statute which underpins the ICC.

The country has said it will establish its own independent probe to investigate human rights abuses.

Suu Kyi and Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing were among the 15 attendees at Friday's meeting in Naypyidaw, a Facebook post by the office of President Win Myint said.

It covered "national security and international relations including the crisis in Rakhine state" and the formation of an "investigative commission" on Rakhine.

The select group last convened immediately after the August 25 attacks last year by Rohingya militants.

The attacks killed around a dozen border police and triggered the army's campaign against the Rohingya.

Analysts say high-level meetings between the civilian government and military could help sink differences.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a repatriation deal in November for the Rohingya refugees.

But only around 1,000 refugees have been cleared for return.

But virtually none has gone back, demanding safety guarantees, citizenship and compensation for razed villages and commandeered farmland.

New UN envoy Christine Schraner Burgener is expected to visit Myanmar shortly to discuss the Rohingya crisis.

UNB adds: The US has urged the government of Myanmar to fulfil its commitment to working with two UN agencies on the Annan Commission report on Rakhine.

"We welcome the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by UNHCR, UNDP, and the Myanmar government," US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Thursday.

Under the MoU, Myanmar agreed to support creation of conditions conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees, she added.

Nauert said this is a positive step and that they see this MoU as a confidence-building measure.

If effectively implemented, it could allow much-needed humanitarian assistance to all the affected communities, she noted.

It also could assist Myanmar in creating necessary conditions for voluntary return and supporting recovery and resilience-based development for the benefit of all communities living in Rakhine State, she added.

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