A UN mission investigating allegations of rape, torture and killings of Rohingya Muslims would only “aggravate” troubles in Rakhine state, the security adviser of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi told diplomats.
Thaung Tun’s comments on Tuesday came less than a month after Myanmar declined to grant visas to three UN-appointed experts who would probe allegations of abuse against the minority by the armed forces.
“We dissociated ourselves from the decision because we found that it was less than constructive,” Thaung Tun told UN officials and diplomats.
“We feel that that mission can only aggravate the situation on the ground,” he said.
Aung San Suu Kyi and several high-level Myanmar officials have been painfully reluctant to address the Rohingya issue, and are often criticised for their failure to stem human rights abuses.
The north of Myanmar’s Rakhine state has been under lockdown since October, when the military launched a security operation in response to what it claims was an attack by Rohingya armed men on border posts, in which nine police officers were killed.
More than 90,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee their homes since the crackdown began, according to UN estimates.
A UN report in February said the campaign against the Rohingya, who were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, “very likely” amounted to war crimes.
Following the report, the UN adopted a resolution in March to set up an independent, international mission to investigate the alleged abuses. It stopped short of calling for a Commission of Inquiry, the UN’s highest level investigation.
Thaung Tun did not directly address the allegations outlined in the report, but said Myanmar had a “clear right to defend the country by lawful means” as it tackles “increasing terrorist activities”.
Myanmar officials say a domestic investigation, led by Vice President Myint Swe, a former lieutenant general, is sufficient.
Last week, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, called on Myanmar to accept the mission, arguing that the “international community cannot overlook what is happening” in the country.
Human Rights Watch warned that Myanmar’s government risked getting bracketed with “pariah states” like North Korea and Syria if it did not allow the UN to investigate alleged crimes.
The UN investigators must provide a verbal update in September and a full report next year on its findings.
Burned to death
This week, Myanmar’s Ministry of Information escorted more than a dozen journalists to parts of Rakhine state.
Villagers told reporters about alleged abuses by troops in the area.
Rohingya women said their husbands and sons were arbitrarily detained and described killings and arson by security forces.
One villager, Lalmuti, told Reuters news agency that she found her father’s remains in a small pile of ashes in a house that had been set on fire.
She said her mother was later arrested when authorities deemed her complaint about the killings to be fabricated.
On Friday, Thura San Lwin, commander of Myanmar’s Border Guard Police, said some villagers had made what he said were erroneous claims and were subsequently charged and jailed for lying to authorities.
“The media said we torched houses and that there were rape cases – they give wrong information,” Lwin said.