The biggest US force in years joined an annual military exercise in Thailand on Tuesday despite controversy over the Thai junta’s invitation to neighbouring Burma’s army, which has been accused of ethnic cleansing.
The Burmese military, which has been accused of ethnic cleansing against the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority, has been invited back as an observer in a major multinational military exercise next year led by the United States and Thailand.
Human rights groups pour scorn on a Burmese military investigation into alleged atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, branding it a “whitewash” and calling for UN and independent investigators to be allowed into the country.
Proposed US sanctions targeting Burma’s military for its treatment of Rohingya Muslims would hinder the fledgling civilian government sharing power with the generals, a spokesman for de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Friday.
Thousands of people rally in front of Yangon’s City Hall in a show of support for the Tatmadaw, with participants waving national flags and military banners at a gathering with little precedent in a country formerly ruled by an oppressive junta.
The European Union deals a blow to what had been increasingly warm ties between the bloc and Burma’s military, saying it will suspend any invitations to the Tatmadaw’s top brass and “review all practical defence cooperation,” as well as maintaining an existing arms embargo.
The Tatmadaw lashed out at the British government on Wednesday after the latter suspended military-to-military engagement in the wake of a counter-insurgency campaign by security forces in Arakan State that the UN has described as “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims there.
Aung San Suu Kyi rejects a suggestion that she is soft on the military, which the United Nations has accused of ethnic cleansing, saying her relationship with the generals was normal and her objective was national reconciliation.
A preliminary hearing for a former child soldier accused of possibly inciting the public for telling his story of forced conscription as a minor was postponed on Friday as the defendant’s lawyer asked the court for more time to prepare for the case.
A damning new report from Amnesty International paints a picture of northern Burma in which the military continues to act with impunity, accused of human rights abuses tantamount to war crimes just weeks after the appointment of a UN fact-finding mission to probe such concerns.