US seeks full access to Rakhine state

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News Desk:

THE UNITED STATES on Tuesday called on Myanmar to provide humanitarian organisations and media full access to the strife-torn Rakhine state in order to ensure the safe return of Rohingya refugees.

The US State Department’s Under Secretary of Political Affairs, David Hale, who will be in Myanmar from today until Friday said the conditions in Rakhine are not safe enough for refugees to return. Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed last year to let thousands of the refugees return home, but the Rohingya have been resisting repatriation due to fears for their safety. Hale said he would discuss the situation with the authorities in Nay Pyi Taw to ensure that the refugees are not forcefully repatriated. He will also raise concerns over allegations of human rights abuses committed by senior officials, he said. Washington has already imposed sanctions against the officials and will step up measures, he added.

The senior diplomat, who also discussed the issue with his Thai counterparts Tuesday, called on the Kingdom, in its capacity as Asean chair, to join the US in efforts to solve the Rakhine crisis. Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai had said recently that as Asean chair, his shuttle diplomacy between Myanmar and Bangladesh over the past months, aimed to ensure the safe return of refugees and improve the situation in Rakhine. Asean and Thailand have been working on the issue from a humanitarian standpoint and have refrained from putting pressure or sanctions against Nay Pyi Taw. Commenting on the Thai political situation, Hale said the US supported Thailand’s return to an elected civilian government and expected a credible, transparent post-election process. “Our interest is to make sure that the processes are transparent. We want Thailand to be strong, with an election that reflects the will of the people,” he told journalists at a press briefing in Bangkok. He is visiting Thailand and Myanmar as part of his Asian tour, which also took him to Indonesia on Monday. He heads for Tokyo next week.


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