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Tillerson to meet Myanmar military supremo in bid to ease Rohingya crisis

From Reuters - November 14, 2017

NAYPYITAW (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Myanmar on Wednesday for talks with the army chief whose forces have been accused of atrocities against ethnic Muslim Rohingya during an operation that drove more than 600,000 to flee to Bangladesh.

A senior U.N. official leveled the accusations of mass rape, killings and torture against the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, after a tour of refugee camps in the Coxs Bazar region of neighboring Bangladesh.

Human rights groups have branded as a whitewash the militarys internal investigation into those allegations, after its findings were posted this week on the Facebook page of the army chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Arriving in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw, Tillerson went straight to see Min Aung Hlaing before a separate meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of a civilian administration that is less than two years old, has to share power with the military and has no control over the generals.

Tillerson and Suu Kyi were scheduled to hold a joint news conference later in the day.

Tillerson and Suu Kyi met on Tuesday during an Asian summit in the Philippines, where the Nobel peace prize winner sought to explain her governments efforts to resolve the crisis and its plans for the eventual voluntary repatriation of Rohingya.

A senior U.S. State Department official traveling with Tillerson told journalists on Tuesday the secretary would tell the army chief that peace and stability needed to be restored to northern Rakhine so that Rohingya refugees could return home.

We are focusing on trying to stabilize areas in northern Rakhine so that people can return there, stopping the violence, making sure that the military would protect all populations in that area equally and that they conduct a credible investigation that leads to accountability for people who have perpetrated abuses, said the official, who was with Tillerson in Manila and declined to be identified.

U.S. senators in Washington are pressing for economic sanctions and travel restrictions targeting the Myanmar military and its business interests.

Myanmars security forces and armed civilians carried out an unprecedented, widespread and systematic attack on Rohingya citizens throughout northern Rakhine state with brutal efficiency, rights group Fortify Rights and the Simon-Skjodt Center for Prevention of Genocide said in a report.

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