ASEAN is expressing ‘solidarity’ with the elected defacto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in her efforts to “promote humanitarian assistance to ease tensions and conflict in Rakhine state.” Leaders at APEC are officially supporting the civilian leader rather than issuing a sterner rebuke over her country’s handling of the Rohingya crisis.

Meanwhile Myanmar’s army has acquitted itself after an internal enquiry into any wrongdoing against Rhakine State Muslims (Rohingya) somehow ignoring the many independent reports coming out of the west of Myanmar after August 25 – the date the Tatmadaw Army moved in to ‘control’ violence allegedly initiated by the Arakan Army.

To date, at least 615,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the north-western border from Myanmar into Bangladesh. Their stories of violence, rape and the destruction of villages by soldiers from the Myanmar Army have filled the world’s headlines but are being called out by Burmese authorities as ‘exaggerations’ and ‘false reporting’ following their internal review.

In the report released yesterday, Myanmar’s military lays the blame for the violence on members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a Rohingya militant group, which it says in the report attacked 30 police and an army battalion headquarters post on August 25. According to the report, the actions of soldiers from the Myanmar Army were in ‘self defence’.

According to a story on CNN, the report states, ”Security forces did not commit shooting at innocent villagers and sexual violence and rape cases against women. They did not arrest, beat and kill the villagers.” The report also clears security forces of robbing Rohingya as well as burning their mosques, villages and homes.

Back at APEC 2017, a meeting of the Asia Pacific leaders, Indonesian President Joko Widodo says he is “very concerned” about the humanitarian crisis in Rhakine State. As leader of the world’s largest Muslim country, his support for the Muslim Rohingya is expected, whilst restraining his stronger condemnation of the Myanmar Government and their tacit support for soldiers in their army. Malaysia’s delegation has also strongly condemned the Myanmar Army’s action in Rhakine State in discussions with reporters but not in official APEC missives.

Jakarta is expecting urgent talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar to progress repatriation of the refugees, hoping to have concrete actions implemented soon. AFP are reporting that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is poised to visit Myanmar to discuss the matter in coming days.

Prior to APEC, and in media briefings away from the main stage of the APEC meeting in The Philippines, leaders continue to share their harsh criticism against Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader Suu Kyi and her handling of the Rohingya situation. The Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha is reported to have had a 10-minute corridor meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, but the details of their conversation have not been made public. In the past Thailand has sided with Myanmar, referring to the Rohingya as ‘Bengalis’, making plain their agreement with successive Burmese governments that the minority are not indigenous to Myanmar. (Thailand’s military governments have usually been in support of the neighbouring Myanmar military-led governments in the past).

Aung San Suu Kyi will walk away from this year’s APEC battered but not bruised over her handling of the Rohingya crisis. Meanwhile efforts from refugee and aid groups continue in full swing to assist the 600,000+ refugees as they languish in hastily constructed camps on the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh. ASEAN, officially, continues to turn a blind eye and struggles to maintain local political composure over the issue.

PHOTOS: Voice of America

- Tim Newton

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Tim Newton
Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 2,800 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 330 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and now produces digital media for The Thaiger and Phuket Gazette.