UN council mulls over draft resolution on Rohingya crisis

A Rohingya refugee with her child at a refugee camp near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh yesterday. The proposed resolution would also call on Myanmar to allow refugees living in makeshift camps in Bangladesh to return.
A Rohingya refugee with her child at a refugee camp near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh yesterday. The proposed resolution would also call on Myanmar to allow refugees living in makeshift camps in Bangladesh to return.PHOTO: REUTERS

Proposal calls for Myanmar to 'immediately cease military operations' but opposition expected from China

UNITED NATIONS • The United Nations Security Council is weighing a draft resolution that would pressure Myanmar to address the violence that has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee, according to the proposed text of the resolution.

The proposed resolution, drafted by Britain and France, would call on the Myanmar authorities to "immediately cease military operations" and allow refugees living in make-shift camps in Bangladesh to return.

The six-page text does not threaten sanctions, but lays out a series of concrete demands.

But diplomats said the draft resolution, which would be the first formal response from the top UN body, faces strong opposition from China and they expect tough negotiations ahead to reach an agreement.

"The Chinese are not on board," said a Security Council diplomat on condition of anonymity. "They want us to say nothing and do nothing on this issue."

China, a supporter of Myanmar's former ruling junta, maintains that it is using private channels to pass on the message that the violence must end and the refugee crisis must be addressed, according to diplomats.

Since late August, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled an army campaign in Myanmar's Rakhine state that the UN has denounced as ethnic cleansing. The Myanmar authorities say the military operation is aimed at rooting out Rohingya militants who had staged attacks on police posts.

POTENTIAL THREAT TO REGION

The crisis in Rakhine state has not only been decades in the making, but has been spilling over and continues to spill over beyond Myanmar's borders. For a very long time now, this issue has not been simply a domestic affair.

UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR YANGHEE LEE (above) of South Korea, saying the council should adopt a "strong resolution" to tackle a potential threat to the region.

The draft resolution condemns the violence in Rakhine state and attacks by Rohingya militants, while expressing "grave concern that the Myanmar security forces and vigilantes have been responsible for human rights violations and abuses".

It calls on Myanmar to allow humanitarian aid workers safe access to Rakhine state, from where Rohingya who managed to escape the army campaign are now fleeing amid dire food shortages.

The draft resolution also demands that UN rights investigators be allowed access to Rakhine to report on allegations of atrocities, and calls for the appointment of a UN special adviser on Myanmar.

And it urges Myanmar to implement the recommendations of a commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan that said the Rohingya should be granted citizenship rights.

The 1.1 million-strong Rohingya population has faced decades of discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and have been denied citizenship since 1982, which has effectively rendered them stateless.

Rights groups have accused the Security Council of dragging its feet on Myanmar and are calling for tougher measures, such as an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against those responsible for the attacks against the Rohingya.

Addressing the General Assembly's committee on human rights on Wednesday, UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee of South Korea said the council should adopt a "strong resolution" to tackle a potential threat to the region.

"The crisis in Rakhine state has not only been decades in the making, but has been spilling over and continues to spill over beyond Myanmar's borders," said Ms Lee.

"For a very long time now, this issue has not been simply a domestic affair," she added.

A recent report by the UN human rights office accused Myanmar of seeking to permanently expel the Rohingya by planting landmines at the border with Bangladesh, where the refugees are sheltering.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2017, with the headline 'UN council mulls over draft resolution on Rohingya crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe