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Canada, U.S. Function to step up pressure on Myanmar’s military leadership

27 Sep 17
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Canada and the USA are in discussions about how they could intensify pressure on Myanmar’s strong military leadership because of its role in ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims, amid reports that 480,000 members of the minority group have fled violence in the Southeast Asian nation.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stated she talked with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday night about ways to step up pressure on Myanmar’s military leadership, but didn’t mention any particular plans. Speaking to the House of Commons during an emergency debate about the violence confronting Rohingya, Ms. Freeland underlined the significance of holding Myanmar’s military to account.

“it’s quite important that the army in Myanmar know that the entire world knows of the army’s role in this ethnic cleansing and that we’ll not stand for it,” said Ms. Freeland, who took time away from NAFTA discussions in Ottawa to deal with the House of Commons Tuesday night.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi doesn’t have the ability to direct security issues, as the army retained significant authority under Myanmar’s 2008 constitution. However, the Nobel laureate and honorary Canadian citizen has faced sharp global criticism for her inaction on the current Rohingya crisis.

In a Sept. 18 letter to Ms. Suu Kyi, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the responsibility for resolving the crisis falls “squarely upon” Ms. Suu Kyi and military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, who asked the emergency debate, asked Ms. Freeland if she’d spoken with General Hlaing directly. Ms. Freeland said Canada has put pressure “straight to the army leadership,” but didn’t indicate if she talked with Gen. Hlaing.

Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday that Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity in its massacre of villagers and mass arson in Rakhine state, where 480,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh over the last month. A Myanmar government spokesman said there was no evidence to support that claim.

Ms. Freeland said Canada has three objectives for the ongoing Rohingya crisis: to end the ethnic cleansing; to make sure that humanitarian assistance can reach the minority group; and to work with global allies allowing Rohingya to return to Rakhine and live free of persecution.

The current outbreak of violence began at the end of August, after Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and a military base in Rakhine. Myanmar’s army responded by murdering hundreds of people, triggering a large exodus of Rohingya villagers. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has described the situation as ethnic cleansing.

Heading in the United Nations General Assembly last week, the Liberal government said it was likely to concentrate on the plight of Rohingya, among other current global problems. While Mr. Trudeau and his cabinet colleagues increased the situation of Rohingya during bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UN, his speech made no mention of the situation.

“The Prime Minister must have raised this issue during his address to the UN General Assembly last week,” Mr. Genuis stated.

Ms. Suu Kyi didn’t attend the UN General Assembly, staying in Myanmar to deliver her first national address since the enormous Rohingya exodus. In her speech, she condemned rights abuses in Rakhine and said violators will be punished. While Western diplomats and aid officials welcomed the tone of her speech, some doubted if she’d done enough to deflect international criticism.

NDP MP David Christopherson, who has met Ms. Suu Kyi, told the House of Commons that she’s the best hope for Myanmar, while acknowledging her lack of power within the army.

“We are going to be certain the world knows that we are holding the military to account since we are aware of the problem that [Ms. Suu Kyi] has and my heart breaks for this circumstance.”

With reports from Reuters

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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