Published: Sat, November 17, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Pence says Myanmar's handling of Rohingya 'without excuse'

Pence says Myanmar's handling of Rohingya 'without excuse'

Bangaldesh is expected to repatriate 2,000 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar on the same day.

More than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar's western Rakhine state in a military crackdown from August previous year, bringing with them stories of murders, rapes and torture.

Pence also pressed Suu Kyi to pardon two Reuters journalists who were arrested almost a year ago and sentenced in September to seven years in prison for breaching the Official Secrets Act.

Dr Mahathir, who is here for the 33rd Asean Summit and its related meetings, said he did not raise the issues personally with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi but through the intervention.

Defenders of Suu Kyi say she has little control over Myanmar's military in a country where the generals still have huge political power and independence. "We are in a better position to explain to you what is happening", she said.

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Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay did not answer calls seeking comment on Pence's comments on Wednesday.

Paris-based worldwide news agency AFP said, according to some Rohingya leaders, many of those slated to be repatriated have gone into hiding within the camps at Cox's Bazar, the border district hosting a small refugee city perched on hillsides.

In a meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit in Singapore, Pence told Suu Kyi that he was anxious to hear about progress in resolving the crisis, which stems from a violent military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.

Bangladesh has said that it would not force anyone to return and has asked UNHCR to verify whether those on the list are willing to go back to Myanmar.

Suu Kyi has come under fierce criticism for her handling of the crisis in Rakhine and for failing to safeguard human rights in Myanmar.

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More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".

Senior Myanmar officials said they would do their best to be ready, but Bangladesh's repatriation commissioner said he was unaware that a date had been set. Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison earlier this year for allegedly breaking the country's Official Secrets Act after reporting on the massacre.

The plight of the Rohingya- a beleaguered stateless minority- grabbed the spotlight at this year's ASEAN summit, after a UN Fact Finding Mission said that Myanmar security forces should be tried in International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also continues to receive reports of ongoing violations of the rights of Rohingya remaining in northern Rakhine which include allegations of killings, Bachelet recalled.

Refugees have the right to return home if they wish, but all returns must be fully voluntary and safe with full respect for their human rights, including their right to security as well as worldwide monitoring to protect them from further persecution.

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Bangladesh is reportedly using heavy-handed tactics in an attempt to force Rohingya Muslim refugees - who have taken shelter in the country after fleeing state violence in neighboring Myanmar - back across the border.

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