GENEVA – The head of a team of U.N. human rights investigators said Tuesday that comments in a speech by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi "bode well" for its so-far unsuccessful efforts to gain access to the country now facing an exodus of Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh.
Marzuki Darusman decried stepped-up violence in Myanmar over the last month that has caused more than 400,000 people to flee, and asked the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council for a six-month extension until next September for his team's first written report. After delays, he only took the chairmanship of the council's new fact-finding mission on Myanmar in July.
Addressing the council, Darusman cited two main points from Suu Kyi's speech earlier Tuesday: The "categorical readiness" of Myanmar's government to accept returnees once procedures are worked out, and its readiness to be "globally scrutinized by the international community."
In her speech, Suu Kyi said Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny and expressed concern about fleeing Muslims, alluding to ethnic Rohingya but without mentioning them by name.
"The timely speech of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi this morning, in a way, speaks to our deliberations this morning" at the council, Darusman said. He cited reports of mass killings, torture, the burning of villages and other crimes.
Shortly after he spoke, the International Organization for Migration put the total number of Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh at 421,000 on Tuesday.
At its March session, the council agreed to "dispatch urgently" a fact-finding mission to look into alleged human rights violations and abuses by the military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine state where many Rohingya live.
But Myanmar showed no immediate sign of yielding to Darusman's appeal, with Ambassador Htin Lynn telling the council that his country "reiterates its position dissociating itself" from the March resolution that created the fact-finding mission.