NAYPYIDAW (UCAN): The commander-in-chief of the defence forces in the Union of Myanmar, a senior general, Min Aung Hlaing, termed Rohingya Muslims illegal immigrants and defended a bloody and vicious crackdown on the minority group in the northern part of Rakhine State.
The suppression resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,000 people and has put more than 77,000 people on the run.
The four-month security clearance operation began in October last year following deadly attacks on border guard stations that were later blamed on Rohingya militants.
The Rohingya, who escaped to neighbouring Bangladesh, have accused security forces of indiscriminate killing, arson, torture and rape.
“We have already let the world know that we don’t have Rohingya in our country,” Reuters reported Min Aung as saying.
“The Bengalis in Rakhine State are not Myanmar citizens and they are just people who come and stay in the country,” he said, using a derogatory term for the Rohingya and repeating a view that, although not fact-based, is widely shared in his country.
“We have a duty to protect our sovereignty when it is harmed by political, religious and racial problems in the country,” he told a gathering in the capital Naypyidaw to celebrate Armed Forces Day.
Records from former colonial master, Britain, show that the Rohingya have lived in the region for hundreds of years.
Communal violence with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012 left more than 200 people dead and displaced about 140,000 Rohingya.
Min Aung’s speech comes just three days after the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council agreed to send an international fact-finding mission to investigate human rights.
A recalcitrant Myanmar has said it will not cooperate with the UN mission.