Naypyidaw — British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Thursday called for justice in the Rohingya crisis after his visit to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, telling embattled leader Aung San Suu Kyi the world "won’t let it rest".
Hunt’s rallying cry for accountability comes at the end of a busy two-day visit during which he visited Rakhine — the epicentre of a brutal military campaign that drove out more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims — and met with Suu Kyi.
"Burma needs to know the international community won’t let it rest," said Hunt, using Myanmar’s former name.
Myanmar has set up an "independent" commission to take measure of the army’s crackdown on the Rohingya, rejecting the UN probe and calls for the International Criminal Court to investigate.
"If we don’t see that process happening, we will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure there is justice ... the world is watching," Hunt said after the meeting, which he said was "lively" and "frank".
The British foreign minister’s visit came in the same week that UN investigators released a damning and meticulous report detailing why six Myanmar generals should be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
The Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they joined about 300,000 already in cramped refugee camps, carrying accounts of extrajudicial killings, extreme sexual violence and arson. The evidence warrants the charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the UN investigators said.
Hunt also brought up his "concerns" with Suu Kyi on the jailing of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced earlier this month to seven years each under the state secrets act. The pair had uncovered the extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya men in the Rakhine village of Inn Din — an event the army has since acknowledged.
Suu Kyi, who endured a total of 15 years of house arrest under the previous junta-led regime, said last week Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s sentencing upheld the rule of law.
"She said she would look into it," Hunt said on Thursday.
Before the meeting, the foreign minister was led on a three-hour, tightly managed tour of Rakhine via helicopter, which included the Taung Pyo Letwe returnee reception centre, opened to receive the refugees even though virtually no Rohingya have come back.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement last year to repatriate the Muslim minority back to their fatherland but it has stalled as they fear returning to Rakhine without their safety and rights guaranteed.
In each of the three other locations Hunt was shepherded to, he found a preselected group of locals waiting to speak to him. At Pan Taw Pyin village, the final stop, he walked off to try to speak with nearby residents about their experiences despite the heavy security presence.
The military has consistently denied nearly all wrongdoing, insisting its campaign was justified to root out militants. Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN condemned its probe on Tuesday as "one-sided" and "flawed".
Suu Kyi, a former pro-democracy icon, has seen a sharp fall from grace internationally due to her failure to deal with the Rohingya crisis. Her supporters say her hands are tied by a still powerful military, which controls a quarter of parliament’s seats and three ministries. UN investigators say her government’s "acts and omissions" contributed to the "atrocity crimes" in the crisis.
Hunt will head to New York next week for the UN General Assembly where he will chair a foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday on Myanmar.