‘Myanmar treatment of Rohingya without excuse’

An aerial view of the Hla Phoe Khaung transit camp for returning Rohingya

Inside the meeting, Aung San Suu Kyi told Pence about her government's official Commission of Inquiry and said its members have a broad scope of authority to pursue justice, according to the USA official. Pence also said Myanmar's arrest and conviction of two Reuters journalists was "deeply troubling" to millions of Americans.

Pence and Suu Kyi met during the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore.

Responding to Mr Pence, she said it was good to exchange views, but added: "We understand our country better than any other country does".

"So we are in a better position to explain to you what is happening, how we see things panning out".

"In a way, we can say we understand our country better than any other country does", she said.

Bangladesh, which had been sheltering another 400,000 Rohingyas prior to the fresh exodus, has urged the United Nations and the worldwide community to put pressure on Myanmar to guarantee the safe and dignified return of the refugees.

On Wednesday, officials of Bangladesh's Refugee Repatriation and Relief Commission met representatives of different worldwide agencies and the government, but no-one was willing to disclose the outcome of the discussions.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed the border from Rakhine State to Bangladesh since last August, to escape brutal treatment by Buddhist locals and Myanmar military forces who have destroyed villages and killed thousands.

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On Thursday a long-delayed - and heavily criticized - plan to repatriate Rohingya was set to begin, despite dire warnings their safety will be in jeopardy if forced to return to Myanmar.

"The army is in every corner of the Jamtoli and Hakimpara camps, sitting and checking people and not letting them move between camps", one Rohingya refugee in the Jamtoli camp said. In September, Aung San Suu Kyi defended their arrests, saying they had broken the law and their case has "nothing to do with freedom of expression at all".

"We are witnessing terror and panic among those Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar who are at imminent risk of being returned to Myanmar against their will", Michelle...

"But to be truly voluntary, refugees need alternatives - including to remain in Bangladesh with asylum protections and to resettle in a third country".

Sources say that for many Rohingya whose names appeared on the initial list, the prospect of returning at this point - with no guarantees of security and scant details on how the process will be conducted - has sent them into hiding amidst the sprawling tent cities that have cropped up along the border.

Bachelet stressed that "the human rights violations committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar amount to the worst atrocities, including crimes against humanity and possibly even genocide". But it didn't call for a halt to the repatriation plans.

The repatriation of a first group of 2,200 refugees was to officially begin on Thursday, and officials in Myanmar had said they were ready for them.

A first wave of organized returns could begin as soon as 15 November, following the announcement of a bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar last month which falls short of global obligations.

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