Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was unequivocal in rejecting allegations of human rights abuses in Arakan State as he met yesterday with his Malaysian counterpart in Naypyidaw.
“Myanmar security forces have never committed any human rights violations such as illegal killing, rape and arson attack, and investigation is being made in cooperation with the relevant organizations. Any violations will be dealt with legal punishment,” Burma’s commander-in-chief told General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, according to a Facebook post from Min Aung Hlaing.
The generals met as tensions between the two countries simmer in the wake of vocal condemnation of Burma’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims by members of the Malaysian government including Prime Minister Najib Razak, who attended a Rohingya solidarity rally in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday and said events unfolding in Arakan State amounted to “genocide.”
“And, they discussed that anyone cannot make untrue talks in the region due to news coverage of local and foreign media,” Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook post continued.
Zulkifeli Mohd Zin also met yesterday with President Htin Kyaw, who likewise rejected “false news on efforts of the government for solving the issues in Rakhine [Arakan] State after violent attacks in Maungtaw, Rakhine State, and escalation of misunderstandings on the issue due to the erroneous news,” according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.
On Thursday, the government established an investigation commission to probe the October 9 attacks on border guard posts in northern Arakan State and the subsequent crackdown by security forces during “clearance operations” to root out suspected perpetrators of the assault.
The European Union issued a statement the following day welcoming the news.
“Its work must be objective and help prevent similar events in the future, including by ensuring accountability for all perpetrators of violence and hatred,” read a statement by the EU spokesperson.
Human rights groups have alleged that Rohingya Muslims have been victims of extrajudicial killings, rape and torching of their homes as security forces have conducted sweeps of villages. Thousands have fled across the border into neighbouring Bangladesh, which has also pushed many would-be refugees back onto Burmese soil.
Journalists and humanitarian aid organisations have been barred access to much of northern Arakan State, making independent verification of the rights groups’ claims and government counter-claims impossible.
Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Saturday rebutting Myanmar President’s Office deputy director general Zaw Htay, who had criticised Malaysian “interference” in a domestic matter.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs views with concern the humanitarian crisis in Rohingya, the spillover effect of which will affect the safety, security and standing of Malaysia, as Myanmar’s ASEAN neighbour. … As a neighbour and a responsible member of the international community, it is Malaysia’s obligation to ensure that its ASEAN colleague takes proactive steps to prevent the matter from further deteriorating,” the statement read.
It added, “The fact that only one particular ethnicity is being driven out [of Arakan State] is by definition ethnic cleansing. This practice must stop, and must be stopped immediately in order to bring back security and stability to the Southeast Asian region.”