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Malaysia urges Asean to lead push to end Rohingya crisis

Reuters, dpa  |  Published:  |  Modified:

Malaysia said today the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar was a regional concern and called for the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) to coordinate humanitarian aid and investigate alleged atrocities committed against them.

Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said progress in improving the human rights of the Rohingya people in Rakhine state had been "rather slow" and reports of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings and rape by soldiers were continuing.

"We believe that the situation is now of a regional concern and should be resolved together," Anifah told a meeting with his Asean counterparts in Yangon, according to a transcript of his speech provided by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi hosted informal talks with Asean foreign ministers in the commercial capital of Yangon today to discuss the crisis.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International in a report published today documenting a brutal "scorched earth" campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority said Myanmar may be guilty of crimes against humanity.

"The Myanmar military has targeted Rohingya civilians in a callous and systematic campaign of violence," Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International's director for South-East Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement released in Yangon today.

"The deplorable actions of the military could be part of a widespread and systematic attack on a civilian population and may amount to crimes against humanity."

Attacks on security forces in northern Rakhine state in October prompted a sweeping crackdown on the persecuted population and the army is accused of killing and raping civilians as well as burning down their homes.

Tens of thousands of Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh following the violence.

A 32-year-old Rohingya woman named Fatima told the rights group three soldiers raped her in a padi field. "I don't remember what happened next because I fell unconscious,"she said. "I woke up early the next morning. I could not get up so I crawled across the padi field."

The Myanmar government denies the allegations, defending the military's actions as "clearance operations" to root out Rohingya militants.

Government spokesperson Zaw Htay could not immediately be reached for comment.

- Reuters, dpa

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