Rohingya Muslims

British foreign minister Johnson meets Myanmar’s Suu Kyi to discuss Rohingya crisis

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 8:35pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 February, 2018, 9:52pm

Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson stopped off in Myanmar on Sunday to press Aung San Suu Kyi on the need for an independent investigation into violence in Rakhine state, as the country faces mounting pressure to punish troops accused of atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims.

Johnson met Myanmar’s embattled unofficial leader, whose reputation among the international community has crumbled over her handling of the Rohingya crisis, in the capital Naypyidaw while on a four-day tour in Asia.

The meeting followed Johnson’s visit to a refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, where nearly 700,000 Rohingya have sought sanctuary after fleeing a Myanmar army crackdown launched in northern Rakhine last August.

The UN has accused Myanmar security forces of driving the Muslim minority across the border in an ethnic cleansing campaign. Medecins Sans Frontieres says at least 6,700 Rohingya died in the first month of violence.

Myanmar has denied the charges and blocked UN investigators from the conflict zone, souring relations with a host of western allies.

Fresh reports of mass graves in Rakhine – and the arrest of two Reuters journalists investigating an alleged massacre – have increased pressure on Suu Kyi to condemn the army, who she is in a delicate power-sharing arrangement with. But the Nobel laureate has refused to change tack.

On Sunday Johnson and Suu Kyi “discussed in an open and friendly manner the latest developments in Rakhine State, including planning for the reception of returnees who fled”, Myanmar’s foreign ministry said in a Facebook post alongside photos of the pair meeting.

Johnson, who later flew to Rakhine state, wrote on Twitter that he raised the “importance of [Myanmar] authorities in carrying out full & independent investigation into the violence in Rakhine”.

He said he also stressed the “urgent need to create the right conditions for Rohingya refugees to return to their homes in Rakhine”.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed a deal for the refugees to return home, but repatriation has not begun yet.

Many Rohingya say they do not feel safe returning to a country where they have faced decades of discrimination and have been denied them citizenship.

After months of denying abuses by its troops, Myanmar’s military admitted in January that security officers helped in the killing of 10 Rohingya men in Rakhine’s Inn Din village.

The admission followed the arrests of two Myanmar journalists who were investigating the executions and face 14 years in prison on charges of possessing secret documents.

Johnson was expected to fly to Bangkok later on Sunday for a visit that will include meetings with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the Thai chairman of an advisory board on the Rohingya crisis.