UN calls for ‘im­me­di­ate steps’ to end Myan­mar vi­o­lence

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD - Ca­role Landry

THE UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on Wed­nes­day broke its weeks-long si­lence on the cri­sis in Myan­mar and called for an end to the vi­o­lence as UN chief An­to­nio Guter­res said the mil­i­tary cam­paign amounted to eth­nic cleans­ing of Ro­hingya Mus­lims.

Fol­low­ing a closed-door meet­ing, the 15-mem­ber coun­cil in­clud­ing China, a sup­porter of Myan­mar’s for­mer rul­ing junta, ex­pressed con­cern about ex­ces­sive force dur­ing se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions in Rakhine state and called for “im­me­di­ate steps” to end the vi­o­lence.

It was the first time the coun­cil agreed on a united re­sponse to the cri­sis sparked by a mil­i­tary crack­down that fol­lowed at­tacks by Ro­hingya mil­i­tants late last month.

Some 380,000 Ro­hingya have fled across the bor­der into neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh and there have been grow­ing ap­peals for Myan­mar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out in de­fence of the Ro­hingya.

Suu Kyi’s spokesman ear­lier said the No­bel lau­re­ate and long-time hu­man rights cham­pion would de­liver an ad­dress next week on peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Myan­mar.

At a press con­fer­ence in New York, Guter­res called for a halt to the mil­i­tary cam­paign in Rakhine and said the mass dis­place­ment of Ro­hingya amounted to eth­nic cleans­ing.

“I call on the Myan­mar au­thor­i­ties to sus­pend mil­i­tary ac­tion, end the vi­o­lence, up­hold the rule of law and recog­nice the right of re­turn of all those who had to leave the coun­try,” the sec­re­tary­gen­eral told a press con­fer­ence.

Asked if he agreed the Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion was be­ing eth­ni­cally cleansed, he replied: “When one-third of the Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion has got to flee the coun­try, can you find a bet­ter word to de­scribe it?”.

The 1.1-mil­lion strong Ro­hingya have suf­fered years of dis­crim­i­na­tion in Myan­mar, where they are de­nied cit­i­zen­ship even though many have long­stand­ing roots in the coun­try.

Guter­res said the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment should ei­ther grant the Ro­hingya na­tion­al­ity or legal status that would al­low them to live a nor­mal life.

Con­demn­ing the vi­o­lence, the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil also called for hu­man­i­tar­ian aid work­ers to be able to reach those in need in Rakhine state.

But China blocked a pro­posal from Egypt to add lan­guage on en­sur­ing the right of re­turn to the Ro­hingya shel­ter­ing in Bangladesh, diplomats said.

Still, Bri­tish Am­bas­sador Matthew Ry­croft stressed that it was the first time in nine years that the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil was able to agree on a com­mon stance on Myan­mar.

“We were united in our con­cern about the sit­u­a­tion” af­ter hear­ing from UN of­fi­cials who briefed the coun­cil on “the catas­tro­phe that is be­falling Rakhine state and the Ro­hingya there,” said Ry­croft.

Rights groups had urged the coun­cil to meet in open ses­sion and send a clear mes­sage to Myan­mar that the world is watch­ing.

“To­day was a baby step for­ward, and it’s ad­mit­tedly rare that the Coun­cil finds a way to agree on Burma, but it’s far less than what’s needed in the face of the un­fold­ing tragedy,” said Ak­shaya Ku­mar, Hu­man Right­sWatch’s deputy UN di­rec­tor.

In the north­ern area of Rakhine, 176 out of 471 Ro­hingya vil­lages now stand empty af­ter “the whole vil­lage fled”, gov­ern­ment spokesman Zaw Htay said in Yan­gon.

ADIB CHOWDHURY/AFP

Ro­hingya refugees ar­rive by boat on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River af­ter flee­ing vi­o­lence in Myan­mar on Tues­day.

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