Di­vi­sions emerge over Ro­hingya cri­sis as China backs Myan­mar

Refugee cri­sis prompts Bei­jing to call for in­ter­na­tional sup­port in­stead of cen­sure at the UN

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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.

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