Myanmar army chief says world has no right 'to interfere' over Rohingya crisis

General Min Aung Hlaing and five other officers are accused of genocide and other crimes by UN

(FILES) This file photo taken on July 19, 2018 shows Myanmar's Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces, saluting to pay his respects to Myanmar independence hero General Aung San and eight others assassinated in 1947, during a ceremony to mark the 71th anniversary of Martyrs' Day in Yangon. - United Nations investigators on August 27, 2018 called for an international probe and prosecution of Myanmar's army chief Min Aung Hlaing and five other top military commanders for genocide against the country's Rohingya minority. (Photo by YE AUNG THU / AFP)

Myanmar's army chief said the United Nations had no right to interfere in the country's affairs, a week after a UN investigation called for him and other top generals to be prosecuted for genocide

The actions of General Min Aung Hlaing and other senior officers against Myanmar's Rohingya minority have attracted widespread condemnation.

But his defiant response was the military's first public reaction since a UN fact-finding mission urged the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar's top officers to the International Criminal Court.

It came as the UN General Assembly prepares to discuss the crisis in New York.

No country, organisation or group has the "right to interfere in and make decisions over sovereignty of a country", Gen Min Aung Hlaing told troops in a speech on Sunday, according to the military-run newspaper Myawady.

"Talks to meddle in internal affairs [cause] misunderstanding."

UN investigators went into horrific detail about the atrocities allegedly committed by troops last year in their "clearance operations" against the Rohingya, which forced more than 700,000 of the stateless Muslims to flee over the border into Bangladesh.

Troops, often aided by ethnic Rakhine mobs, committed murder, rape, arson and torture, employing unfathomable levels of violence and with a total disregard for human life, they concluded.

The military has denied all wrongdoing, justifying its crackdown as a legitimate means of rooting out Rohingya militants.

epa06213002 Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech on the Myanmar government's efforts with regard to national reconciliation and peace in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, 19 September 2017. Suu Kyi used to speech to address national reconcilliation and peace efforts in Myanmar in the 18 months that the nation has been under civilian rule. The Myanmar military has been under increased international scrutiny due to the refugee crisis in Bangladesh caused by ethnic Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state due to a security crackdown. Authorities estimate that over 400,000 Rohingya have fled the violence in Rakhine State.  EPA/HEIN HTET

Myanmar's civilian government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, had already rejected the report's finding as "one-sided" and "flawed" and dismissed a separate decision at the criminal court that found it had jurisdiction over the crisis.

But rights groups and the UN say the operations were vastly disproportionate and a troop build-up in the area occurred before insurgents attacked police posts in August 2017.


Read our special report on displaced Rohingya Muslims in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh:

For the Rohingya, now at least, anger stops short of militancy

Rohingya find their voice in exile but not an audience


Ms Suu Kyi's civilian government shares power with the still mighty army, which has retained control over a quarter of parliamentary seats and three key ministries since the nation emerged from direct junta-rule in 2011.

The UN team also criticised the Nobel Laureate's government for "acts and omissions" that had "contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes".

In a rare, if understated, criticism of the military, Ms Suu Kyi recently said the situation "could have been handled better".

The army chief made it clear that the Tatmadaw, as the military is known locally, has no intention of extracting itself from politics.

"Take a look at the democracy practices in the world, the countries exercise the democracy system suited to them," the general said, adding that the country must end armed conflict on its road to true multi-party democracy.

"The Tatmadaw will continue its efforts to achieve eternal peace," he said.

The Rohingya languishing in refugee camps in Bangladesh refuse to return to a Myanmar that does not grant them citizenship.

In his speech the army chief doubled down on the narrative widely held in Myanmar that the minority are outsiders, calling them "Bengalis" and insisting that the law which fails to recognise the group among the country's many ethnicities would remain in place.