Myanmar army chief says ‘no right to interfere’ as U.N. weighs Rohingya crisis

Rohingya refugees shout slogans as they take part in a protest at the Kutupalong refugee camp to mark the one year anniversary of their exodus in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain/File Photo

YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar’s army chief on Monday warned against foreign interference as world leaders gather at the United Nations to find ways to hold the country’s powerful generals accountable for atrocities against Rohingya Muslims last year.

In his first public comments on the subject since a report by a U.N. fact-finding mission this month, Min Aung Hlaing said Myanmar abided by U.N. pacts, but warned that “talks to meddle in internal affairs” cause “misunderstanding”.

“As countries set different standards and norms, any country, organization and group has no right to interfere in and make decision(s) over sovereignty of a country,” Min Aung Hlaing said in comments reported in English on his website.

The remarks, made during a trip to Myanmar’s northeast on Sunday, were also published in a military-run newspaper on Monday.

A military spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The U.N. mission called for Min Aung Hlaing and five other generals to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity and genocide over allegations of mass killings and gang rapes.

A military crackdown unleashed in the western state of Rakhine last year after attacks by Rohingya militants on police and army posts drove more than 700,000 of the largely stateless minority across the border with Bangladesh.

Myanmar denied entry to the U.N. mission’s investigators and rejected their findings, insisting that security forces conducted a legitimate operation to root out “terrorists”.

In his remarks, Min Aung Hlaing referred to the Rohingya as Bengalis, suggesting they belong in Bangladesh, and said they must “accept scrutiny” under the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law.

The law limits citizenship for those, like the Rohingya, who are not members of officially decreed ethnic groups.

Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi shares power with the military under a 2008 constitution written by the generals who ruled Myanmar for decades.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has begun examining the alleged forced deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh. Myanmar has said it wants to repatriate Rohingya who fled.

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