Bangkok: The Turnbull government has refused to directly condemn Myanmar after a new United Nations report revealed its troops continue the indiscriminate slaughter Rohingya Muslims, including children.
Asked by Fairfax Media if it was time to condemn Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi or the country’s military, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop side-stepped the question, saying through a spokeswoman at her Department of Foreign Affairs “we condemn all abuses of human rights and call on those responsible to be held to account”.
The UN Human Rights office report detailing shocking testimonies of Rohingya survivors who have fled Rakhine state since late August has stoked international outrage.
The report called on Ms Suu Kyi’s government to end the “cruelty” which human rights groups say amounts to crimes against humanity.
Only hours after the release of the report detailing the testimonies of dozens Rohingya survivors, Myanmar’s army chief rejected accusations of abuses by his troops, and accused the media of exaggerating the numbers of Rohingya who have arrived in squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing repeated his uncompromising stance against 1.1 million Rohingya who have been living in Rakhine for generations, referring to them by the term “Bengali” which they regard as derogatory.
“They are not natives,” he said.
UN and international agencies have documented more than 520,000 distressed Rohingya who have fled Rakhine in the past seven weeks in the largest population movement in Asia since the 1970s.
Their arrival in what has become world’s largest concentration of refugees has created an emerging humanitarian catastrophe, aid experts and doctors warn.
‘s refusal to condemn Myanmar contrasts with the US whose ambassador to the United Nations last month denounced a “brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority” and called for countries to cut military ties with Myanmar.
Amnesty International on Friday called on to suspend all forms of support to Myanmar’s military, including training. The European Union has flagged renewing targeted sanctions.
“What will it take for our government to draw a line in the sand with the Myanmar military so as not be to complicit in crimes against humanity in our region?,” asked Diana Sayed, Amnesty’s crisis campaigner in .
“Any further delay will be a stain on our human rights record. We must show leadership and be on the right side of history.”
Ms Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner and Nobel laureate who has been condemned across the world for failing to protect the Rohingya, acknowledged in her latest speech her country is facing widespread criticism and announced she has created a committee to oversee all international and local assistance in Rakhine.
International agencies stopped delivering aid to ten of thousands of Rohingya still in Myanmar’s poorest state in September after Ms Suu Kyi linked them to Muslim insurgents who she described as terrorists.
Agency staff said they felt it too dangerous to deliver aid.
Ms Suu Kyi also said her government is holding talks with Bangladesh on how the families could return to Rakhine but gave no details.
In the UN report released in Geneva investigators documented Myanmar security forces using megaphones to tell Rohingya “you do not belong here – go to Bangladesh. If you do not leave we will torch your houses and kill you”.
The report described well-organised, co-ordinated and systematic attacks that were not only aimed at driving an entire population out of Myanmar, but to prevent them from ever returning to their homes.
A 12-year-old girl from Rathedaung township told how security forces and Buddhist vigilantes surrounded her home and started to shoot. They killed her seven-year-old sister.
A 26-year-old mother said when she woke up at 3am her house was on fire, attackers were shooting, women were dragged and raped and children tortured.
A 25-year-old woman described shootings in her village as a massacre.
“The [four men] in uniform took my sister when we were hiding in the hills???they raped her in front of us as we were hiding behind trees,” she said.
The report also cited witness accounts of victims, including children and elderly, being burnt to death in their houses. One pregnant woman was mutilated and her baby killed.
It detailed evidence of children suffering severe beatings, stabbings and killings.
The report described a strategy to “instil deep and widespread fear and trauma- physical, emotional and psychological” among the Rohingya population.