January 23, 2018 / 1:09 PM / 4 months ago

U.S. defence chief says Rohingya plight even worse than media portrayals

JAKARTA (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that the plight of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar was even worse than media portrayals.

U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis (L) shakes hands with Indonesia's President Joko Widodo during his visit to the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

More than 688,000 Muslim Rohingya and a few hundred Hindu Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25 last year after the Myanmar military cracked down in the northern part of Rakhine state, amid witness reports of killings, looting and rape, in response to militant attacks on security forces.

“This is a tragedy that’s worse than anything that CNN or BBC has been able to portray about what has happened to these people,” Mattis said, speaking to reporters during a trip to Indonesia.

“And the United States has been engaged vigorously in the diplomatic realm trying to resolve this, engaged with humanitarian aid, a lot of money going into humanitarian aid.”

Many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The United Nations described Myanmar’s crackdown as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, which Myanmar denies.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Nick Macfie

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