Southeast Asian leaders kept silent over accusations of ethnic cleansing carried out by Myanmar's army in a statement yesterday, instead expressing support for the country's efforts to bring peace and harmony to northern Rakhine state.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled mainly Buddhist Myanmar since a military crackdown was launched in Rakhine in August, which the United Nations and watchdogs have said amounts to ethnic cleansing.
Rights groups had urged the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to take a strong stand on the crisis in its summit in Manila this week.
But a statement released by the bloc after the meeting failed to condemn the atrocities and merely said an unspecified number of leaders backed Myanmar's humanitarian relief programme in Rakhine.
"They expressed support to the Myanmar Government in its efforts to bring peace, stability, rule of law and to promote harmony and reconciliation between the various communities," it said.
Myanmar authorities insist the military campaign was aimed at rooting out Rohingya militants who attacked police posts on August 25.
But the UN and rights groups have documented civilian accounts of murder, rape and arson at the hands of the army.
The Asean statement was issued hours after watchdogs released reports on "widespread and systematic attacks" on Rohingya civilians including troops gang-raping women and girls.