YANGON: China has endorsed Myanmar’s offensive against Rohingya Muslim insurgents, though the U.N. secretary-general said the operation, which has forced nearly 400,000 people to flee to Bangladesh, was best described as “ethnic cleansing”, reported Reuters.
The Myanmar military offensive in the western state of Rakhine was triggered by a series of guerrilla attacks on Aug. 25 on security posts and an army camp in which about a dozen people were killed.
“The stance of China regarding the terrorist attacks in Rakhine is clear, it is just an internal affair,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Thursday quoted China’s ambassador, Hong Liang, telling top government officials.
“The counter-attacks of Myanmar security forces against extremist terrorists and the government’s undertakings to provide assistance to the people are strongly welcomed.”
China competes with the United States for influence in Myanmar, which in 2011 began emerging from nearly 50 years of strict military rule and diplomatic and economic isolation.
Earlier this week, the Trump administration called for protection of civilians.
The violence in Rakhine State and the exodus of refugees is the most pressing problem Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has faced since becoming a national leader last year.
Critics have called for her to be stripped of her Nobel prize for failing to do more to halt the strife which the U.N. rights agency said was a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday urged Myanmar authorities to end violence, adding that the situation was best described as ethnic cleansing.
“When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, could you find a better word to describe it?” he told a news conference in New York.
The government says it is targeting “terrorists,” while refugees say the offensive aims to push Rohingya out of Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Numerous Rohingya villages in the north of Rakhine state have been torched but authorities have denied that security forces or Buddhist civilians have been setting the fires. Instead, they blame the insurgents.