Myanmar military denies atrocities against Rohingya Muslims

Rohingya crisis: Newborns left to die on beach, according to UK report

In a statement issued late Monday, the military said it had interviewed thousands of people during a month-long investigation into the conduct of troops in western Rakhine state after Rohingya insurgents launched a series of deadly attacks there on August 25.

The U.N. migration agency reports that human trafficking and exploitation are rife among Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh, not only recently but in past years, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at U.N. headquarters in NY.

Almost 600,000 Rohingya, who have been displaced from the Rakhine state in the exodus described as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" by the United Nations, are now living in deplorable conditions in makeshift camps in regions bordering Bangladesh.

Myanmar political analyst Yan Myo Thein said the omission of the Rohingya crisis from the statement could reflect ASEAN's policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of member states.

Guterres also mentioned about the issue at an ASEAN-UN meeting.

"People expected that this subject would be discussed during the summit", he said.

"That the draft statement skipped over the Rohingya crisis means worldwide leaders accept there is no ethnic cleansing in Rakhine", he said. "Those responsible for abuses must be held accountable".

Myanmar's military issued its most forceful denial yet that security forces committed atrocities during "clearance operations" in the west of the country, saying an internal investigation had absolved them of any wrongdoing in a crisis that has triggered the largest refugee exodus in Asia in decades.

While world leaders wrung their hands, thousands of Rohingya remained stranded in Myanmar, on beaches around the mouth of the Naf river, hoping to find a boat to make the short, sometimes perilous crossing to Bangladesh.

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"The Burmese military's absurd effort to absolve itself of mass atrocities underscores why an independent worldwide investigation is needed to establish the facts and identify those responsible", said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch in a statement.

When Aung San Suu Kyi met United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the conference on Tuesday, he stressed that the Rohingya refugees should be allowed to voluntarily return to Myanmar and that the government should increase efforts to ensure humanitarian access to the areas affected by violence.

"The full extent of the violations against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities will not be known until the UN Fact-Finding Mission and other independent observers are given unfettered access to Myanmar, and in particular Rakhine State", he said.

Some U.S. senators are now pursuing legislation to impose economic and travel sanctions on the armed forces and their business interests.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the military's latest claims were "contrary to a large and growing body of evidence" documenting severe rights abuses in Myanmar.

Dujarric said the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has increased to 618,000 over the weekend. In the past week, some 1,200 people crossed over on such flimsy rafts, according to police.

According to Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali, around 3,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown. "We heard [this] from people... over and over again", Lawrence added. Translated by Khet Mar.

Reported by Khin Khin Ei, and Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA's Myanmar Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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