Myanmar army chief says Rohingya Muslims not native, refugee numbers exaggerated

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley last month denounced what she called a "brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority" and called on countries to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar until its military puts sufficient accountability measures in place.

By: Reuters | Yangon | Published: October 12, 2017 12:47 pm
rohingya muslim fleeing, rohingya muslim fleeing number exaggerated, rohingya muslim number, rohingya muslim army chief, indian express news The U.N. human rights office said on Wednesday Myanmar security forces had brutally driven out half a million Rohingya from northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh, torching their homes, crops and villages to prevent them from returning. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Rohingya Muslims are not native to Myanmar, the army chief told the U.S. ambassador in a meeting in which he apparently did not address accusations of abuses by his men and said media was complicit in exaggerating the number of refugees fleeing.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing gave his most extensive account of the Rohingya refugee crisis aimed at an international audience in the meeting with Ambassador Scot Marciel, according to a report posted on his Facebook page.

The general is the most powerful person in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and his apparently uncompromising stance would indicate little sensitivity about the military’s image over a crisis that has drawn international condemnation and raised questions about a transition to democracy under Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military campaign is popular in Myanmar, where there is little sympathy for the Rohingya, and where Buddhist nationalism has surged.

Min Aung Hlaing, referring to Rohingya by the term “Bengali”, which they regard as derogatory, said British colonialists were responsible for the problem.

“The Bengalis were not taken into the country by Myanmar, but by the colonialists,” he told Marciel, according to the account of the meeting posted on Thursday. “They are not the natives, and the records prove that they were not even called Rohingya but just Bengalis during the colonial period.”

The U.N. human rights office said on Wednesday Myanmar security forces had brutally driven out half a million Rohingya from northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh, torching their homes, crops and villages to prevent them from returning.

Coordinated Rohingya insurgent attacks on some 30 security posts on Aug. 25 sparked a ferocious military response.

The U.N. rights office said in its report, based on 65 interviews with Rohingya who had arrived in Bangladesh, that abuses had begun before the Aug. 25 attacks and included killings, torture and rape of children.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley last month denounced what she called a “brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority” and called on countries to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar until its military puts sufficient accountability measures in place.

The European Union and the United States are considering targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders, officials familiar with the discussions said this week.

Suu Kyi is due make a speech on television later on Thursday.

She was swept into office last year after winning an election, but the military holds immense power, including exclusive say over security.

‘FEEL INSECURE’

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has described the government operations as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and said the action appeared to be “a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return”.

Min Aung Hlaing did not refer to such accusations, according to the published account, but said the insurgents had killed 90 Hindus and 30 Rohingya linked to the government.

Insurgents’ opposition to a citizenship verification campaign, which used the term Bengali, was behind the attacks, he said.

“Local Bengalis were involved in the attacks under the leadership of ARSA. That is why they might have fled as they feel insecure,” he said, referring to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgents.

“The native place of Bengalis is really Bengal,” he said. “They might have fled … assuming that they would be safer there.”

He said it was an exaggeration to say the number fleeing to Bangladesh was “very large” and there had been “instigation and propaganda by using the media from behind the scene”.

He did not elaborate, or say how many people he thought had fled, but said the “real situation” had to be relayed to the international community.

U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman is due to visit Myanmar on Friday.

Min Aung Hlaing repeated a promise from Suu Kyi that refugees would be accepted back under an agreement with Bangladesh in the early 1990s, adding that details were being worked out.

Many refugees doubt their chances of going home fearing they will not be able to prove their right to return.

For all the latest World News, download Indian Express App

  1. D
    desiaaddmi
    Oct 12, 2017 at 6:41 pm
    yey myanmar ka mamla hai yey unka desh hai doosro ko usmein unglee karney ka koi right nahi...charo taraf terorism phel raha hai.terorist ko bhaga k bahar kar rahey hain to ismein bura kya hai wo apney desh sey pyar kartey hain isliyey risk utha rahey hain......budham sarnam gachhami.......full support from india...
    (1)(0)
    Reply
    1. A
      Anand S
      Oct 12, 2017 at 6:25 pm
      Myanmar was part of India at one of point of time. The Buddhist army and the government is not the real citizen of Myanmar. Hindus are the real citizens of Myanmar.
      (0)(0)
      Reply
      1. D
        desiaaddmi
        Oct 12, 2017 at 6:46 pm
        hindu india ka real citizen hain merey bhai g wesey to phir afhganistan, iran, pakistan orr bangladesh to india ka hissa thhey hi..unki baat karey to achha hai...wahnha pehely hinduo ka raaj hua karta thha...kya boltey ho...???
        (0)(0)
        Reply
      2. B
        BR
        Oct 12, 2017 at 6:13 pm
        We must adopt similar tactics in Kashmir valley and revert the population to a Hindu/Sikh/Buddhist majority again. If we clandestine allow Indian army to burn say fifty Kashmiri Islamist pest terrorist villages, that should be enough to create exodus towards POK and empty out our Kashmir valley. Note Burmese are not only people doing this. Chinese have also done in Sinkiang.
        (4)(0)
        Reply
        1. S
          SP
          Oct 12, 2017 at 5:00 pm
          Terrorists or Muslims. No body wants these people in their country. Let 50 Ummahs who supply brain and arms embrace them.
          (2)(1)
          Reply
          1. A
            Aadis
            Oct 12, 2017 at 4:45 pm
            I need to ask you a question to Myanmar Army , if they are not native are you native then ? Only cruel mentality peoples can only do this kind of at ude. What you can gain by killing innocent human race just for religious issue ?
            (2)(2)
            Reply
            1. Load More Comments