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Aung San Suu Kyi 'complicit' in Rohingya slaughter: UN investigator

Sydney Morning Herald - February 17, 2018

Lindsay Murdoch, Bangkok The United Nations investigator of human rights in Myanmar has accused Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of "complicity" in the slaughter of Rohingya Muslims, an event which has the "hallmarks of genocide".

Yanghee Lee, a leading child rights expert appointed to the UN post in 2014, said it is possible that Myanmar's defacto leader could eventually face charges relating to genocide or crimes against humanity in an international tribunal.

"She cannot not be accountable," Lee told Britain's Channel 4 News. "Complicity is also part of accountability," she said.

In the UN's strongest condemnation yet of the one-time hero of democratic rights, Lee said Suu Kyi is either in denial or far removed from the Myanmar military's atrocities against Rohingya in the country's Rakhine State, including mass killings, rapes and the burnings of children, which have been extensively documented.

"I'm afraid she has been a role model for everyone, including me, and an angel," Lee said. "And it is really disappointing."

Lee said Suu Kyi should never have been put on pedestal. "She was never a Goddess of democracy and human rights... she was a politician and is still a politician," she said.

Suu Kyi, the 72 year-old daughter of Myanmar's independence hero Aung San, has borne the brunt of international outcries over the atrocities and been stripped of a welter of honours from her days fighting for democracy.

On Friday Thailand awarded Myanmar's army chief Min Aung Hlaing a royal decoration despite ordering a brutal military crackdown on Rohingya insurgents last August that prompted almost 700,000 of the stateless minority to flee to squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Min Aung Hlaing posted a photograph to his official Facebook page of him smiling alongside his Thai counterpart as he received the "Knight Grand First Class of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant." in Bangkok.

The Royal Thai Armed Forces said in a statement the award was to "show the long and close relations" between the two countries. A Thai Defence Ministry spokesman said "it's tradition to give a royal decoration to supreme commanders of foreign countries."

Thailand also invited Myanmar as observers to military exercises in Thailand, prompting criticism from rights groups who questioned why a military accused of ethnic cleansing was being given access.

Despite overwhelming evidence against Myanmar soldiers, the Turnbull government has also refused to cut military ties with Myanmar or to condemn its generals. The ties include the hosting of two dozen Myanmar military officers for training in Australia, as well as providing other support.

In the interview with British television Lee, who was banned from visiting Myanmar in January, after making previous visits, said conditions are not safe for almost one million Rohingya in Bangladesh to return to Rakhine.

Bangladesh on Friday handed over the first 8000 Rohingya to Myanmar to kick-start a repatriation program agreed between the two countries in November.

But Lee said Rohingya cannot be safely repatriated unless Myanmar dismantles repressive and discriminatory policies against them, adding that even if they return "you will see the same thing happen."

Myanmar has for decades refused to grant Rohingya basic rights such as citizenship and freedom of travel.

Lee also said she believes more mass graves will be discovered in Rakhine in the coming months. "I have received information," she said.

More than 1.1 million Rohingya see Rakhine as their homelands and have been living there for generations but Buddhist-majority Myanmar regards them as interlopers from Bangladesh.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/aung-san-suu-kyi-complicit-in-rohingya-slaughter-un-investigator-20180217-p4z0oj.html.

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