The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a statement Monday strongly condemning the violence that has caused more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh, a significant step that still fell short of a stronger resolution that Western nations wanted but China opposed.
The presidential statement calls on Myanmar’s government “to ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine State” and take immediate steps to respect human rights.
It expresses “grave concern” at reports of human rights violations in Rakhine by Myanmar’s security forces against the Rohingya. These include “the systematic use of force and intimidation, killing of men, women and children, sexual violence and … the destruction and burning of homes and property,” it says.
Britain initially circulated a Security Council resolution with similar language, backed by the U.S., France and other council members. But resolutions are legally binding and diplomats said China, a neighbor and ally of Myanmar, was strongly opposed. China is one of the five powers that have veto power on the council.
So Britain turned the resolution into a presidential statement, which becomes part of the council’s record but does not have the legal clout of a resolution.
The statement still represents the strongest statement on Myanmar in nearly 10 years, and reflects widespread international concern at the plight of the Rohingya, who face official and social discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The government doesn’t recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group, insisting they are Bengali migrants from Bangladesh living illegally in the country. It has denied them citizenship.
The latest violence began with a series of attacks Aug. 25 by Rohingya insurgents, which the presidential statement also condemns.
Myanmar security forces responded with a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine that the United Nations and human rights groups have criticized as disproportionate and a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
The statement adopted Monday calls on Myanmar’s government to address the root causes of the crisis by respecting and protecting human rights, “without discrimination and regardless of ethnicity or religion, including by allowing freedom of movement, equal access to basic services and equal access to full citizenship for all individuals.”
It was read at an open council meeting by the council president, Italian Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi.
Myanmar’s ambassador, Hau Do Suan, then spoke, expressing deep concern at the statement, saying it was “based on accusations and falsely claimed evidence.”
“It exerts undue political pressure on Myanmar,” Suan said. “It fails to give sufficient recognition to the government of Myanmar for its efforts to address the challenges in Rakhine State.”
By contrast, Bangladeshi Ambassador Masud Bin Momen thanked the council for the statement, saying: “It will be quite reassuring for the Rohingyas and other communities forcibly displaced from northern Rakhine State since Aug. 25 that the council remains engaged with their prolonged suffering, insecurity and uncertainty.”
He said Bangladesh believes the statement “can be a critical building block for the council to pursue timely, decisive and appropriate actions until the time a peaceful, just and lasting solution to this unfolding humanitarian crisis is achieved.”
Source: Associated Press