“Thailand has invited Burma to observer the humanitarian assistance disaster relief portion of the exercise,” Logan told Sputnik.
Asked why Thailand decided to invite Myanmar despite concerns over the crackdown against the Rohingya and whether this issue was part of their deliberations, a senior officer at the Directorate of Joint Intelligence of the Royal Thai Armed Forces was cited in the report as saying “That never came up in the discussions. We separated that issue. We focus on training, on education, on military cooperation. That is our wish, to have Myanmar involved.”
“That is politics. We are soldiers. This is a military exercise,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added.
This is while Pentagon also refused to comment when asked whether the US military had tried to apply pressure on Thailand not to invite Myanmar due to the international condemnation of its brutal crackdown on the Rohingya.
In late November, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the situation with the Rohingya people in Myanmar “ethnic cleansing” and added that the United States continued to support an independent investigation in order to hold those responsible for the ethnic cleansing accountable.
Prior to that, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also did not rule out that “ethnic cleansing” was taking place in Myanmar.
Arrangement signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in November to start repatriating refugees within two months is viewed with deep suspicion and dread by Rohingya still traumatised by the violent expulsion from their homeland.
The Red Cross said the returns must be voluntary and safe, but rights groups added that the conditions are not in place to ensure safe, voluntary and dignified returns, and Rohingya sense danger lurking behind Myanmar’s assurances.
Aid groups have also warned Myanmar they would boycott any new camps for Rohingya returnees, saying refugees must be allowed to settle in their own homes and not forced into ghetto-like conditions.
More than 620,000 of Myanmar’s Muslim minority have fled across the border to Bangladesh since late August when the Myanmar army launched a sweeping crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Northern Rakhine state.
The Red Cross, the only international aid organisation with broad access on the ground in Rakhine, estimates that only about 300,000 Rohingya remain in the entire state.
The International Committee of the Red Cross announced that life has stopped in Rakhine state due to the fear of violence, months after a new wave of crackdown by the government erupted against the persecuted Rohingya Muslims.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced that at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed in the first month of a Myanmar army crackdown in Rakhine state that began in late August.
The revelation was made as Myanmar’s army has so far denied widespread accounts of violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority and has said that only 400 people died in the first few weeks of a new wave of “security operations”.
All along, government troops and the Buddhist mobs have been killing, raping, and arbitrarily arresting members of the Muslim community. They have also been setting the houses of the Muslims on fire in hundreds of predominantly-Rohingya villages in the Northern parts of Rakhine, where nearly all the Rohingya reside.
Myanmar’s government denies full citizenship to the Rohingya, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Dhaka, in turn, regards the desperate refugees as Myanmarese. The Rohingya, however, track their ancestors many generations back in Myanmar.
The UN has already described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world, calling the situation in Rakhine similar to “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The Myanmarese government, however, denies committing atrocities against the Rohingya people and has even rejected UN criticism for its “politicization and partiality.”
Myanmar continued to destroy Rohingya villages just days after signing a refugee resettlement deal, according to a rights group.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced that the number of completely or partially destroyed Rohingya villages since Myanmar began its campaign targeting the largely Muslim ethnic group now stood at 354.
Meanwhile, United Nations human rights chief announced that genocide charges could be brought against Myanmar following the country’s campaign against the country’s Rohingya Muslims.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein stressed that attacks on the Rohingya had been “well thought out and planned” and he had asked Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to stop the military atrocities.
Humanitarian agencies have also warned that thousands of children are at risk of contracting diphtheria in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, as since the first cases of diphtheria were detected in early November, some 1,326 suspected cases have been detected in the refugee camps.
“Diphtheria usually appears among vulnerable populations that have not received routine vaccinations, such as the Rohingyas,” Unicef Representative to Bangladesh Edouard Beigbeder said, adding that “The outbreak shows a steep rise in cases, an indicator of the extreme vulnerability of children in the Rohingya camps and settlements.”
“Children, who are 55 percent of the Rohingya refugee population, are particularly vulnerable. So are women, and they represent more than half of all refugees in Bangladesh,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Spokesman Babar Baloch said.
“An estimated 10 percent are either disabled, have serious medical conditions, or are older persons at risk,” he added.
The United Nations said on Friday that a quarter of Rohingya children under the age of five who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar suffer from potentially life-threatening levels of malnutrition.
The UN children’s agency said that three health and nutrition surveys conducted between October 22 and November 27 showed up to 25 percent of the young children crammed into Bangladeshi refugee camps have acute malnutrition, among other maladies, The New Arab reported.
“Nearly half the children surveyed have anaemia, up to 40 percent have diarrhoea, and up to 60 percent have acute respiratory infections,” UNICEF Spokesman Christophe Boulierac told reporters in Geneva.
Bangladesh’s UNICEF head Edouard Beigbeder also announced that “our worst fears have been confirmed”.
“Refugee children who have already endured unimaginable suffering in fleeing their homes are now facing a public health crisis,” Beigbeder said in a statement.
UNICEF had warned that 7.5 percent of the children in one of the camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district were at risk of dying from acute malnutrition.
New surveys at the Kutupalong and Nayapara refugee camps, as well as other make-shift settlements, that included more than 1,700 children highlighted the worsening situation.
“Less than 16 percent of children are consuming a minimal acceptable diet,” UNICEF said.