Draft UN resolution pressures Myanmar over refugee crisis


Rohingya Muslim refugees wait for relief aid at Balukhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on October 25, 2017. Photo: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP

The UN Security Council is weighing a draft resolution that would pressure Myanmar to address the violence that has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee, according to the text obtained by AFP on Wednesday.

The proposed resolution, drafted by Britain and France, would call on Myanmar authorities to "immediately cease military operations" and allow refugees now living in makeshift camps in Bangladesh to return.

The six-page text does not threaten sanctions, but lays out a series of concrete demands.

But diplomats said the draft resolution, which would be the first formal response from the top UN body, faces strong opposition from China and they expect tough negotiations ahead to reach agreement.

"The Chinese are not on board," said a Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They want us to say nothing and do nothing on this issue."

China, a supporter of Myanmar's former ruling junta, maintains that it is using private channels to pass on the message that the violence must end and the refugee crisis must be addressed, according to diplomats.

Since late August, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled an army campaign in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Myanmar authorities say the military operation is aimed at rooting out Rohingya terrorists who staged attacks on police posts two months ago.

- A list of demands -

The draft resolution condemns the violence in Rakhine state and attacks by Rohingya terrorists, while expressing "grave concern that the Myanmar security forces and vigilantes have been responsible for human rights violations and abuses."

It calls on Myanmar to allow humanitarian aid workers safe access to Rakhine state, where Rohingya who managed to escape the army campaign are now fleeing amid dire food shortages.

The draft resolution also demands that UN rights investigators be allowed access to Rakhine to report on allegations of atrocities, and calls for the appointment of a UN special advisor on Myanmar.

And it urges Myanmar to implement the recommendations of a commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan that said the Rohingya should be granted citizenship rights.

The 1.1 million Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and have been denied citizenship since 1982, which has effectively rendered them stateless.

Rights groups have accused the Security Council of dragging its feet on Myanmar and are calling for tougher measures, such as an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against those responsible for the attacks against the Rohingya.

Addressing the General Assembly's committee on human rights, UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee of South Korea said the council should adopt a "strong resolution" to tackle a potential threat to the region.

"The crisis in Rakhine state has not only been decades in the making, but has been spilling over and continues to spill over beyond Myanmar's borders," said Lee.

"For a very long time now, this issue has not been simply a domestic affair."

© AFP

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