NEW YORK — Myanmar insisted Wednesday to the United Nations that the crisis in violence-torn Rakhine state was easing after heavy international criticism.
Myanmar’s second vice president U Henry Van Thio addressed the annual UN General Assembly in the place of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who a day earlier delivered a speech calling for patience.
Van Thio’s remarks are even less likely than Aung San Suu Kyi’s to mollify global concerns as he questioned the reasons for the flight of members of the Rohingya minority.
“I am happy to inform you that the situation has improved,” Van Thio said in his address, saying there have been no clashes since September 5.
“Accordingly, we are concerned by reports that the numbers of Muslims crossing into Bangladesh remain unabated. We would need to find out the reason for this exodus,” he said.
His comments contradicted an earlier statement by the government’s Information Committee, which reported that military clearance operations were continuing as recently as September 12.
The United Nations says more than 420,000 Rohingya have fled for safety to Bangladesh in the face of an army campaign that includes the burning of villages and rape.
French President Emmanuel Macron earlier Wednesday described the campaign as genocide.
Van Thio noted that the army campaign came in response to a rebel attack and said that non-Muslims have also suffered.
But Myanmar’s third-in-command thanked foreign countries for support, not referring directly to their criticism.
“Humanitarian assistance is our first priority. We are committed to ensuring that aid is received by all those in need, without discrimination,” Van Thio said.