Myanmar’s army and civilian leadership held a rare ‘national security’ meeting on Friday and discussed an internal investigation into the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state, the president’s office said.
The meeting - only the third of its kind since Aung San Suu Kyi’s government took power in 2016 - follows a deal to allow the UN to enter Rakhine to assess when refugees may be able to return, reports AFP.
Some 700,000 of the Muslim minority have fled over the border to Bangladesh after the military launched a violent crackdown on Rohingya insurgents last August that the UN and US have called ‘ethnic cleansing’.
Until this week’s deal with the UN, Myanmar had dragged its feet for months over the repatriation of the stateless minority, insisting the region is safe for their return but refusing access to outsiders to evaluate conditions.
Pressure is also mounting from the International Criminal Court, which is due to discuss on June 20 whether to launch an investigation into the crackdown.
Myanmar, which denies the ethnic cleansing allegations, has dismissed the move, saying it is not a signatory or member of the Rome Statute which underpins the ICC.
The country has said it will establish its own independent probe to investigate human rights abuses.
Suu Kyi and Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing were among the 15 attendees at Friday’s meeting in Naypyidaw, a Facebook post by the office of president Win Myint said.
It covered ‘national security and international relations including the crisis in Rakhine state’ and the formation of an ‘investigative commission’ on Rakhine.
The select group last convened immediately after the August 25 attacks last year by Rohingya militants which killed around a dozen border police and triggered the army’s campaign against the Rohingya.
Analysts say high-level meetings between the civilian government and military could help smooth differences that perforate their power-sharing agreement.
Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a repatriation deal in November for the Rohingya refugees.
But only around 1,000 refugees have been cleared for return, while virtually none have gone back, demanding safety guarantees, citizenship and compensation for razed villages and commandeered farmland.
Both countries have traded accusations over who is responsible for the delay.
New UN envoy Christine Schraner Burgener is expected to visit Myanmar shortly to discuss the Rohingya crisis.
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s hardline monks will dodge bans on Facebook and keep using the social media giant to ‘tell the truth’, they said on Friday, after it barred several Buddhist nationalists for hate messages targeting Rohingya Muslims, reports Reuters.
United Nations officials investigating a possible genocide in Myanmar have said Facebook had been a source of propaganda against the minority in a country where it has become a near-ubiquitous communications tool as the economy opens up.
Myanmar’s nationalist monks and activists, who have emerged as a political force in recent years, have been sharing violent and angry rhetoric on Facebook targeting the minority, seen by many in the Buddhist-majority country as illegal immigrants.
‘It is a violation of freedom of expression,’ Thuseitta, a member of the Patriotic Myanmar Monks’ Union told Reuters hours after Facebook identified him as a ‘hate figure’.
‘We will keep using Facebook with different names and accounts to tell the truth to people.’
Pinnyawenta, another monk from the union whose account was deactivated in May after repeatedly being asked by Facebook to remove some posts, said he had registered again under another name and would ‘continue to write about the truth’ on the site.
In an email message on Friday, Facebook told Reuters it was ‘investing more in the teams who are working on Myanmar’ as it seeks to ‘understand and respond to Myanmar’s unique technical challenges’.
The California-based company will invest more in artificial intelligence to deal with languages in Myanmar, it said.
Facebook added that it had designated as ‘hate figures and organizations’ a radical Buddhist group, Ma Ba Tha, and several prominent monks known for vitriol towards Rohingya, blocking them from the platform.
The move had led to the removal of ‘a lot of harmful and violating content’, it said.
Ei Myat Noe Khin, a manager of Yangon-based Phandeeyar, which helped Facebook translate its Burmese-language community standards, urged the company to hire more people who are unbiased and understand Myanmar well.
That would be the only way for Facebook to tackle the proliferating accounts behind the rumors spread to trigger violence, riots and conflict, she added.
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