ISTANBUL, Sept 5, (Agencies): Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned escalating human rights violations targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority during a phone call with Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Turkish presidential sources said.
The United Nations said 123,600 had crossed into Bangladesh in the past 11 days following an uptick in fighting between militants and Myanmar’s military in strife-torn western Rakhine state, which raised fears of a humanitarian disaster.
The latest violence, which began last October when a small Rohingya militant group ambushed border posts, is the worst Rakhine has witnessed in years, with Erdogan last week accusing Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Erdogan has stepped up diplomacy and spoke on the phone with Muslim leaders during the Islamic Eid al-Adha festival, seeking ways to solve the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. He also spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will visit Bangladesh on Wednesday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. In the phone call with Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner of Myanmar’s junta, Erdogan said growing human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims “deeply concerned” the entire world, sources from his office said.
Suu Kyi has come under fire over her perceived unwillingness to speak out against the treatment of the Rohingya or chastise the military. Erdogan said Turkey “condemns terror and operations against innocent civilians”, adding that the developments in Myanmar had turned into a “serious humanitarian crisis which caused worry and resentment.”
The Turkish leader had previously said he would bring up the issue at the next UN General Assembly in New York later this month. Guterres on Friday said he was “deeply concerned” by the situation in Myanmar and called for “restraint and calm to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe”. The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar, where the roughly one million-strong community are accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Suu Kyi has come under more pressure on Tuesday from countries with Muslim populations to halt violence against Rohingya Muslims. Reuters reporters saw hundreds more exhausted Rohingya arriving on boats near the Bangladeshi border village of Shamlapur on Tuesday, suggesting the exodus was far from over.
Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi, in Dhaka to discuss aid for the fl eeing Rohingya, met her Bangladeshi counterpart, Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, a day after urging Suu Kyi and Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing to halt the bloodshed. “The security authorities need to immediately stop all forms of violence there and provide humanitarian assistance and development aid for the short and long term,” Retno said after her meetings in the Myanmar capital. The latest violence in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state began on Aug. 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base. The ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive have killed at least 400 people and triggered the exodus of villagers to Bangladesh.
The treatment of Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing Suu Kyi, who has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution. Myanmar says its security forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against “terrorists” responsible for a string of attacks on police posts and the army since last October. Myanmar officials blamed Rohingya militants for the burning of homes and civilian deaths but rights monitors and Rohingya fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh say the Myanmar army is trying to force them out with a campaign of arson and killings. “Indonesia is taking the lead, and ultimately there is a possibility of ASEAN countries joining in,” H.T. Imam, a political adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, told Reuters. He was referring to the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations that includes both Myanmar and Indonesia. “If we can keep the pressure on Myanmar from ASEAN, from India as well, that will be good.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will discuss rising violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state during a visit that begins on Tuesday, and push for greater progress on long-running Indian infrastructure projects, officials said. India seeks to boost economic ties with resource-rich Myanmar, with which it shares a 1,600-km (1,000- mile) border, to counter Chinese infl uence and step up connectivity with a country it considers its gateway to Southeast Asia. Two-way trade has grown to around $2.2 billion as India courted Myanmar following the gradual end of military rule, but Indian-funded projects have moved slowly.
Modi’s promises to “Act East” and cement ties with India’s eastern neighbour have slipped even as China has strengthened its influence. His first bilateral visit comes amid a spike in violence in Rakhine, after a military counter-offensive against insurgents killed at least 400 people and triggered the exodus of nearly 90,000 villagers to Bangladesh since Aug. 25. The violence could hit development of a transport corridor that begins in Rakhine, with the Indian-built port of Sittwe and includes road links to India’s remote northeast, analysts said. “It’s going to be a very vexed and complex issue,” said Tridivesh Singh Maini, a New Delhi-based expert on ties with Myanmar. “You need to play it very smartly. You need to make it clear that Rakhine violence has regional implications… but India will not get into saying, ‘This is how you should resolve it.’” Last month, India said it wanted to deport 40,000 Rohingya refugees who left Myanmar in previous years. Modi arrives from China late on Tuesday in the capital Naypyidaw to meet President Htin Kyaw on a threeday visit.