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Tillerson, in Myanmar, calls for credible probe of atrocities

Tillerson, in Myanmar, calls for credible probe of atrocities

Refugees have fled violent clashes in the north of Rakhine state, where Myanmar's military has intensified what it calls "clearance operations" targeting "terrorists" after Rohingya militants attacked police posts, killing 12 security officials.

During a five-hour visit to Myanmar, Tillerson met the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and military commander Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the New York Times reported.

A senior United Nations official on Sunday levelled allegations of mass rape, killings and torture against the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, after a tour of refugee camps in the Cox's Bazar region of neighbouring Bangladesh.

"The recent serious allegations of abuses in Rakhine state demand a credible and impartial investigation and those who commit human rights abuses or violations must be held accountable", he said.

The conversations in Myanmar could include consequences if the country's leaders can't formulate a "credible response" to the crisis that satisfies the global community, the official said when asked if renewed sanctions were still under consideration.

"In all my meetings, I have called on the Myanmar civilian government to lead a full and effective independent investigation and for the military to facilitate full access and cooperation".

Myanmar considers the Rohingya refugees illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, despite the fact that many Rohingya families have lived in Rakhine for decades.

Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque also said Suu Kyi pledged on Monday that repatriation of the displaced people would begin within three weeks after Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh.

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The report contradicts consistent statements from Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh - some with gunshot wounds and severe burns - who have described massacres, rapes, looting and the burning of hundreds of villages by Myanmar's army and civilian mobs.

Tillerson condemned the militant attacks, but said any response by the security forces needed to avoid to the "maximum extent possible harming innocent civilians".

The U.S. first imposed economic sanctions on Myanmar in 1990 in an attempt to weaken the then-military regime and its business affiliates.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council slammed called upon the government of Myanmar to ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine State, to restore civil administration and apply rule of law, and to take immediate steps in accordance with their obligations and commitments to respect human rights. "The key test of any new democracy is how it treats its most vulnerable and marginalized populations".

During his visit to the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw, his first to the country, Tillerson pledged an additional $47 million in aid for refugees, bringing the total the United States has earmarked for the crisis to $87 million since August.

"The humanitarian scale of this crisis is staggering", Tillerson said.

"I can not hide my deep concern with the dramatic movement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh", Guterres told the ASEAN leaders.

Suu Kyi has seen her reputation tarnished as the violence continues. "My statements are not meant to be exciting, they are meant to be accurate".


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