YANGON (Reuters) – A senior Myanmar government official on Tuesday denied there was ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in the troubled northwestern state of Rakhine, where a military operation aimed at the minority has forced 75,000 people to flee to Bangladesh.
Attacks on Myanmar border guard posts in October last year by a Rohingya insurgent group ignited the biggest crisis of country leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s year in power.
A UN report in February said Myanmar’s security forces had committed mass killings and gang rapes against Rohingya during their campaign against the insurgents, which may amount to crimes against humanity.
The military has denied the accusations, saying it was engaged in a legitimate counter-insurgency operation.
Thaung Tun, a recently appointed National Security Adviser, reiterated the claim made by Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi during a recent interview when she said “ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening”.
“There is no ethnic cleansing of Muslim minority in Rakhine,” Thaung Tun told a group of diplomats in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. “It is a matter of people on different sides of the divide and the government is striving to overcome the situation and to close the gap.”
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