Rex Tillerson Tells Myanmar Leaders to Investigate Attacks on Rohingya

“The key test of any democracy is how it treats its most vulnerable and marginalized populations,” Mr. Tillerson said in Naypyidaw, the capital. “It is the responsibility of the government and the security forces to protect and respect the human rights of all persons within its borders and to hold accountable those who fail to do so.”

But Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has defended Myanmar’s security forces, saying that there should be an investigation into what caused the Rohingya crisis. “We want to find out why this exodus is happening,” she said in a speech in September.

Given the widespread testimony from Rohingya refugees about what led them to flee, critics have accused the Nobel laureate of disingenuousness.

At the news conference on Wednesday, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi defended her statements, saying, “I don’t know why people say I’ve been silent” about the Rohingya, and suggesting that perhaps what she has said was not “interesting enough” or “incendiary.” She thanked Mr. Tillerson for having “an open mind.”

“An open mind is something very rare these days,” she added.

Last month, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi — who as a civilian leader has no authority over Myanmar’s powerful military, which ruled for nearly half a century — set up yet another commission dedicated to the Rohingya emergency. There are now at least five such panels, and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi presides over most of them.

Yet members of her government admit they have not sent any investigators to Bangladesh to listen to the Rohingya’s accounts. Human rights groups fear that, at a minimum, hundreds of Rohingya civilians have been killed. But with international investigators prevented from freely accessing northern Rakhine, evidence is scarce.

Myanmar’s minister for social welfare, Dr. Win Myat Aye, who is involved in four of the government’s Rohingya commissions, said on Wednesday that he was wary of accusing the military of any atrocities.


Mr. Tillerson, left, with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on Tuesday in Manila at a summit meeting of Southeast Asian nations. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has defended Myanmar’s security forces against accusations of atrocities.

Department of State, via European Pressphoto Agency

“We always used to hear that the military was violating human rights,” said the veteran member of the National League for Democracy, whose leaders…

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