BANGKOK – British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met his Burmese counterpart and de facto leader of the Myanmar government, Aung San Suu Kyi, in Naypyidaw on Sunday, a day after a visit to refugee camps in east Bangladesh sheltering around 690,000 Rohingyas fleeing violence in Myanmar.
Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, received Johnson in the main meeting room of the foreign ministry on Sunday morning, the Myanmar ministry posted on its official Facebook page.
In a statement ahead of the visit, the British Foreign Secretary said he would be “talking to State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other regional leaders about how we can work together to resolve this appalling crisis.”
On Saturday, Johnson visited Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to hear firsthand the persecutions allegedly suffered by the members of the mostly Muslim minority at the hands of Burmese security forces.
The UK minister described the current situation as “one of the most shocking humanitarian disasters of our time” and said his aim was to achieve a “safe, dignified return” for the Rohingya refugees.
Human rights organizations have documented widespread abuse by the Myanmar army against the Rohingyas, including killings and rapes, during its military campaign against the minority, which the United Nations has described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The Myanmar army denies the allegations, although in January, it admitted to a case of extrajudicial killings of Rohingyas, who were buried in a mass grave in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the ethnic minority has been living for centuries.
In November, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees by the end of January, but Dhaka suspended it at the last minute.
On Sunday, Johnson was due to visit the Maungdaw township in Rakhine on the Bangladeshi border, where resettlement camps are being built ahead of the potential repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.
Members of the mostly Muslim minority community are not recognized by Myanmar’s authorities, who consider them Bengali migrants, and refuse to grant them citizenship.
Their plight worsened in 2012 following the outbreak of sectarian violence between the minority and the Buddhist majority in Rakhine, which left around 120,000 Rohingyas living in camps for displaced people in that state.