Myanmar’s handling of Rohingya was ‘without excuse’: US Vice-President

Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech during a joint press announcement in Tokyo

More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh from western Myanmar, UN agencies say, after Rohingya insurgent attacks on Myanmar security forces in August, 2017 triggered a sweeping military crackdown.

He added that he was eager to hear about how Myanmar will enable the Rohingya to voluntarily return home.

Pence also said that Washington wanted to see a free and democratic press in Myanmar, commenting: "In America, we believe in our democratic institutions and ideals, including a free and independent press", Pence said. Mr Pence is attending that and the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Papua New Guinea later this week in President Donald Trump's stead. He said the treatment of the Rohingya was "indefensible".

Suu Kyi spent about 15 years under house arrest for opposing her country's earlier military dictatorship, winning her worldwide praise and in 1991, the Nobel Peace Prize. That campaign targeted the Muslim-majority ethnic group in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state, as well as other ethnic minorities in the area, and killed thousands.

Still, Suu Kyi has faced widespread criticism for not speaking out in defense of the Rohingya. On Monday, she was stripped of Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience award for the "shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for".

Responding to Mr Pence, she said it was good to exchange views, but added: "We understand our country better than any other country does".

Suu Kyi has previously said her civilian government should not bear all responsibility for the crisis because the military retains a powerful political role under the Constitution.


Pence also urged Suu Kyi to pardon the imprisoned journalists.

But the prospect has created panic in the camps, prompting some families who were due to be among the first to be repatriated to flee, according to community leaders.

The two countries agreed on October 30 to begin the returns in mid-November to Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Many of them witnessed the killing of members of their families and the burning of their homes and villages, the United Nations rights office said, adding that it continued to receive reports of ongoing violations against Rohingya still in Rakhine.

While many Rohingya want to return home, they said, they fear doing so without protections like citizenship and those responsible for the slaughter being held accountable. But it did not call for a halt to the repatriation plans.

Meanwhile, the UN's human rights head warned that the sufferings of the persecuted Rohingya would increase if Bangladesh and Burma proceeded with their repatriation plans. The stateless Rohingya have been the target of communal violence and vicious anti-Muslim sentiment in mainly Buddhist Myanmar for years.

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