July 30, 2018 / 8:56 PM / 21 days ago

Myanmar appoints panel to probe Rohingya abuses

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar has established a commission of inquiry to probe allegations of human rights abuses in conflict-torn Rakhine state, authorities said on Monday, as the country faces growing calls for accountability over accusations of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims.

Rohingya refugees are reflected in rain water along an embankment next to paddy fields after fleeing from Myanmar into Palang Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The four-person commission will be comprised of two local and two international members – Filipino diplomat Rosario Manalo and Kenzo Oshima, Japan’s former ambassador to the U.N – the Myanmar President’s Office said in a statement. Manalo, 82, a former undersecretary of foreign affairs, will chair the commission.

The two local members are lawyer Mya Thein and Aung Tun Thet, an economist and former UN official. Aung Tun Thet was last year appointed by de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to a key role in Myanmar’s response to the Rakhine crisis, and in April told a Bangladesh newspaper that Myanmar had “no intention of ethnic cleansing”.

“The Independent Commission will investigate the allegations of human rights violations and related issues, following the terrorist attacks by ARSA,” the office of President Win Myint said, referring to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a Rohingya armed group.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar’s western Rakhine state after a military crackdown that started in August last year in response to attacks by ARSA on security posts. Myanmar has rejected accusations of ethnic cleansing and dismissed most accounts of atrocities, blaming Rohingya “terrorists”.

The statement on Monday called the panel “part of its national initiative to address reconciliation, peace, stability and development in Rakhine.”

The commission is one of several formed in recent months to address the situation in Rakhine state, which the UN has termed a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Reporting by Simon Lewis and Poppy McPherson; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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