HONG KONG, Feb 11: Myanmar’s senior official in Hong Kong has described the Rohingya people as “ugly as ogres” in a letter sent to media and foreign officials after a high-profile refugee case highlighted their plight.

The country’s Consul General Ye Myint Aung told heads of foreign missions in Hong Kong and local newspapers members of the Muslim ethnic group should not be described as being from Myanmar.

“In reality, Rohingya are neither Myanmar people nor Myanmar’s ethnic group,” he wrote, in a letter on Wednesday.

The envoy contrasted the “dark brown” Rohingya complexion with the “fair and soft” skin of people from Myanmar, which he said was “good looking as well”.

In a letter liberally punctuated with brackets, Ye Myint Aung continued:

“(My complexion is a typical genuine one of a Myanmar gentleman and you will accept that how handsome your colleague Mr Ye is.) It is quite different from what you have seen and read in the papers. (They are as ugly as ogres).” Rights groups say the Rohingya are stateless and face religious and ethnic persecution from Myanmar’s military regime, forcing thousands to take to rickety boats each year in a bid to escape poverty and oppression. But Myanmar’s junta denies the existence of the Rohingya as an ethnic group and says the migrants are Bangladeshis.

Ye Myint Aung included recent clippings from the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece for the junta, stating that the Rohingya are not among Myanmar’s ethnic groups and detailing 60 years of action against Rohingya “illegal immigrants”. —AFP

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