Wed, Oct 04, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Give Burmese democracy ‘a chance to survive’: official

‘SELF-DEFENSE’:Police officers who had exceeded their boundaries have been punished, a Burmese official said, rejecting ethnic cleansing allegations made by the UN


Rohingya Muslims who had fled Myanmar look out from a madrasah in Shahparirdwip, Bangladesh, on Monday.

Photo: AP

A top Burmese official on Monday appealed for democracy in the country to be given “a chance to survive” amid international anger over a military campaign against Rohingya Muslims that the UN has described as ethnic cleansing.

About 507,000 Rohingya Muslim have fled to Bangladesh since insurgents attacked security posts near the border on Aug. 25, triggering fierce Burmese military retaliation.

Myanmar said more than 500 people have been killed, most of them insurgents.

Burmese National Security Adviser Thaung Tun told reporters that he has spoken with his US counterpart, US General H.R. McMaster, on telephone and visited members of the US Congress in Washington last week.

He said sanctions were not specifically discussed.

The US last week called on countries to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar’s military, but it stopped short of threatening to reimpose US sanctions, which were suspended under the administration of former US president Barack Obama.

“We need to ensure that democracy has a chance to survive in Myanmar. This is a young democracy,” Tun told reporters in an interview at the UN, adding that Burmese state councilor and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has only been in office for 18 months.

Aung San Suu Kyi assumed power following a landslide election win after former military leaders initiated a political transition.

For years, the US and others imposed sanctions on Myanmar in support of Aung San Suu Kyi’s campaign for democracy.

“We have a lot of challenges and these challenges cannot be overcome in a day. Rome wasn’t built in a day. So we can’t undo 50 years of challenges,” Tun said, adding that he hoped to meet in person with McMaster to brief him on the current situation.

An official from the administration of US President Donald Trump last month said the violence made it harder for the US and Myanmar to build warmer ties and there would likely be some “easing” in the short term, but he did not expect a return to sanctions.

Tun said he had not met privately with US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, but had spoken to her briefly on the sidelines of other meetings in New York.

The UN Security Council last week met publicly on Myanmar for the first time since 2009.

Haley said the Burmese authorities appeared to be carrying out “a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority.”

She said countries should stop supplying weapons to Myanmar until the military has sufficient accountability measures.

“Action has been taken against a number of policemen who exceeded their bounds in dealing with detainees,” Tun said.

“We have very strict instructions for the security forces to carry out their duties within the bounds of the code of conduct,” he said. “Nobody is above the law.”

He said that ethnic cleansing or genocide was not happening in Myanmar.

The Burmese government has said that there have been no military operations since Sept. 5.

However, Tun said that since then security forces have responded when attacked.

“Under the cover of night there have been some sporadic attacks and the police and the security people have been required to respond in self-defense,” he said.

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