Divisions emerge over Rohingya crisis as China backs Myanmar
Refugee crisis prompts Beijing to call for international support instead of censure at the UN
COX’S BAZAR (B Angl ADe SH) — International divisions emerged yesterday ahead of a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on the worsening refugee crisis in Myanmar as China voiced support for its neighbour.
Myanmar has been criticised for a military crackdown termed as “ethnic cleansing” that has forced 370,000 Rohingya to flee the violence. Beijing’s intervention appears aimed at heading off any attempt to censure Myanmar at the council when it convenes today.
China was one of the few foreign friends of Myanmar’s former junta.
Beijing has tightened its embrace under Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government as part of its giant trade, energy and infrastructure strategy for South-east Asia.
The exodus from Myanmar’s western Rakine state began after Rohingya militants attacked police posts on Aug 25, prompting a military backlash that has sent a third of the Muslim minority population fleeing for their lives.
Exhausted Rohingya refugees have given accounts of atrocities at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist mobs who burned their villages to the ground.
They cannot be independently verified as access to Rakhine state is heavily controlled. Myanmar’s government denies any abuses and instead blames militants for burning down thousands of villages, including many belonging to the Rohingya.
But international pressure on Myanmar increased this week after United Nations human rights chief
We call on Burmese security authorities to respect the rule of law, stop the violence, and end the displacement of civilians from all communities. Statement from the White House
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein denounced the country on Monday for conducting a “cruel military operation” against the Rohingya, branding it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The US also raised alarm over the violence. “We call on Burmese security authorities to respect the rule of law, stop the violence, and end the displacement of civilians from all communities,” the White House said in a statement.
Opprobrium has been heaped on Ms Suu Kyi, who faces accusations of turning a blind eye to a humanitarian catastrophe.
But Beijing offered more encouraging words to her yesterday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that while China condemned the violent attacks in Rakhine, it supported the Myanmar government’s efforts to “uphold peace and stability” in the troubled region.
“We hope order and the normal life there will be recovered as soon as possible,” he told a press briefing. “We think the international community should support the efforts of Myanmar in safeguarding the stability of its national development.”
The Rohingya minority are denied citizenship and have suffered years of persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
“An estimated 370,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh,” said Mr Joseph Tripura, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency.
That new estimate given is more than 50,000 higher than Monday’s estimate — a result of aid agencies reaching ‘‘more villages, hamlets and pockets where refugees have gathered’’.
The real figure may be higher as many new arrivals are still on the move making it difficult to include them in the count, the UN said, adding 60 per cent of refugees are children.
Most are in dire need of food, medical care and shelter after trekking for days through hills and jungles or braving dangerous boat journeys.
In a statement late on Monday, Ms Suu Kyi’s Foreign Ministry defended the military for doing their “legitimate duty to restore stability”, saying troops were under orders “to exercise all due restraint, and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage”.
“The government of Myanmar fully shares the concern of the international community regarding the displacement and suffering of all communities affected by the latest escalation of violence ignited by the acts of terrorism,” the ministry added.
Britain and Sweden requested the urgent UNSC meeting amid growing international concern over the ongoing violence. The council met behind closed doors late last month to discuss the violence, but could not agree on a formal statement.