WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Myanmar military, which has been accused of ethnic cleansing against the country's Muslim Rohingya minority, has been invited to take part in a regional military meeting co-chaired by the United States and Thailand, the U.S. military said on Monday.
Myanmar's armed forces launched a military operation in 2017 that forced at least 730,000 of the mainly Muslim Rohingya from their homes and into neighboring Bangladesh, where they recounted killings, mass rape and arson. In 2021, Myanmar's military seized power in a coup.
Last year President Joe Biden's administration formally determined that violence committed against the Rohingya minority by Myanmar's military amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity. The military has denied genocide, saying its crackdown was aimed at Rohingya rebels who had carried out attacks.
More than a million Rohingya are living in squalid camps in southern Bangladesh comprising the world's largest refugee settlement, with little prospect of returning to Myanmar, where they are mostly denied citizenship and other rights.
The United States and Thailand are co-chairing the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting (ADMM)-Plus experts’ working group on maritime security and its associated activities.
A Pentagon spokesman said that the attendance is determined by Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states.
"The United States continues to join the international community in responding forcefully to the military coup in Myanmar to urge the regime to end violence, release all those unjustly detained, and restore its path to democracy, to include through ADMM-Plus forums," Lieutenant Colonel Marty Meiners, a Pentagon spokesman, said.
The news was first reported by Myanmar Now.
This is not the first time the United States has invited Myanmar to a military exercise. Myanmar attended the same forum virtually last year.
In 2017, the Pentagon invited Myanmar as an observer in a major multinational military exercise led by the United States and Thailand.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by William Maclean)