UN turns up pressure on Myanmar over Rakhine crisis


Rohingya refugees who had been stranded in the 'no-man's land' between Myanmar and Bangladesh wait with their belongings in Palongkhali after crossing into Bangladesh's Ukhia district on November 3, 2017. Photo: AFP

The UN Security Council on Monday called on Myanmar to rein in its military campaign in Rakhine state and allow hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya driven from their homes to return.

In a unanimous statement backed by China, the council strongly condemned the violence that has forced more than 600,000 Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh.

The council expressed "grave concern" over human rights violations, "including by the Myanmar security forces" against the Rohingya such as killing, sexual violence and burning of homes and property.

It called on the government "to ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine state, to restore civilian administration and apply the rule of law."

The statement included most of the demands contained in a draft resolution presented last month by Britain and France, but that measure ran into strong opposition from China, a supporter of Myanmar's former ruling junta.

China had indicated it was willing to resort to its veto power to block a resolution, but Beijing finally agreed to a statement during negotiations, diplomats said.

Since late August, more than 600,000 Rohingya have been driven from their homes by an army campaign.

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

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

Council members called for full access for humanitarian aid workers to Rakhine and said the government must address the root causes of the crisis by allowing "equal access to full citizenship."

The statement did not, however, threaten sanctions.

Addressing the council, Myanmar's Ambassador Hau Do Suan said the statement "exerts undue political pressure on Myanmar" and warned it could exacerbate religious tensions.

- China on board -

During negotiations with China, language on citizenship rights was watered down, along with a demand that Myanmar allow a UN human rights mission into the country, diplomats said.

The statement calls on Myanmar to cooperate with the United Nations and encourages UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special advisor on the crisis.

France and Britain stressed that the top UN body was issuing "demands" to Myanmar and that Guterres would report on progress in 30 days.

The council statement was clinched as Guterres prepares to travel to Manila this week to join leaders of the Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN for a summit during which the Rohingya crisis will be a top issue.

© AFP

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