Suu Kyi stance on Rohingya ‘indefensible’: Malaysia PM

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Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi has rebuffed criticism over her government's treatment of its ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

"The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse".

The draft of the chairman's statement, which was reviewed by Reuters but may change before it is delivered by host Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the close of meetings of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the situation in Rakhine State was a "matter of concern".

Amnesty International said on Tuesday it had withdrawn its most prestigious human rights prize from Suu Kyi, accusing her of perpetuating human rights abuses by not speaking out about violence against the Rohingya.

Suu Kyi was brief in her remarks, saying each country knew their own situation best. Mohammad, a Rohingya refugee in a Bangladesh camp called to tell me.

Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said the country was ready to start repatriating the refugees via two transit points they have set up at the border.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, almost 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar's state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau say they are "deeply concerned" about a proposed repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar this month.

Refugee community leaders said many Rohingya on the returnee list were terrified and in hiding.

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Bangladesh says it will start repatriating refugees from an initial group of 2,260 from Thursday despite warnings the Rohingya face nearly certain persecution in Myanmar.

"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", Bachelet said in a statement, adding that two men have attempted suicide. 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".

"They had a very candid exchange of views on that", the official said.

On Monday, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR advised against the returns, saying safety should be assessed first.

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

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 worldwide obligations.

Myanmar has denied citizenship to the Rohingya since 1982 and excludes them from the 135 ethnic groups it officially recognizes, which effectively renders them stateless.

The forcible return of refugees violates the principle on non-refoulement, an absolute prohibition in worldwide treaties and customary global law on returning people to a territory where they could face a risk to their lives or other serious human rights violations.

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