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30 September, 2017 12:33:43 AM
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UN extends probe of Myanmar violence

Secretary General Antonio Guterres asks Myanmar to end ‘nightmare’
AFP
UN extends probe of Myanmar violence
Rohingya Muslims walk through Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia upazla of Cox’s Bazar on Thursday AFP photo

The UN Human Rights Council decided yesterday to extend an investigation into abuses committed in Myanmar, especially in Rakhine state, where violence has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee, reports AFP from Geneva.

The UN chief, Antonio Guterres, meanwhile has exhorted Myanmar's leaders to end the ‘nightmare’ faced by Rohingya refugees fleeing an army campaign, after at least 23 people drowned with scores more feared dead when a boat carrying Rohingya families capsized off Bangladesh.

The billowing humanitarian crisis prompted the UN Security Council to hold its first meeting on Myanmar in eight years early yesterday, though the member countries failed to arrive at a joint resolution at the New York meeting.

In Geneva, The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution tabled by the European Union calling for the international fact-finding mission to be given another six months.

Several countries distanced themselves from the resolution, including China, but none demanded a vote in the 47-member council, and the measure was adopted by consensus.

The council set up the mission in March to investigate possible violations across Myanmar, with a particular focus on alleged crimes against Rohingya in Rakhine state.

The Muslim minority is loathed in Myanmar, denied citizenship and are instead branded "Bengalis" -- or illegal migrants who do not belong in the Buddhist-majority country.

Half a million Rohingya have crushed into camps in Bangladesh since August 25, fleeing a Myanmar army campaign and communal violence that the UN describes as "ethnic cleansing".

Earlier this month, the UN fact-finding mission asked for more time, lamenting a lack of access to the country. Friday's decision gives them until next September to present their final report.

Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly denounced the UN probe as unhelpful and vowed that her government would not cooperate.

But after an outcry, Suu Kyi said earlier this month that her government was open to foreign scrutiny of the situation in Rakhine.

"We hope the government will see the benefit of cooperating," Estonian ambassador Andre Pung told the council on Friday, speaking on behalf of the EU.

But Myanmar representative Hau Khan Sum said his country vehemently rejected the resolution, saying it continues "to believe that the establishment of a fact-finding mission is not helpful", and "counter-productive in our efforts to achieve national reconciliation."

While welcoming the extension of the UN fact-finding mission, activists said that the resolution's wording had been weakened to help it pass.

An earlier version called "for an end to ... violations and abuses" in Myanmar, but the document that passed Friday called only for "and end to the violence."

"It's baffling that it decided not to clearly call for an immediate end to grave and serious rights violations," Iniyan Ilango of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development told AFP.

Another report adds from Cox’s Bazar: The UN chief exhorted Myanmar's leaders to end the ‘nightmare’ faced by Rohingya refugees fleeing an army campaign, after the drowning of at least 23 with scores more feared dead when a boat carrying Rohingya families capsized off the Cox’s Bazar coast.

The billowing humanitarian crisis prompted the UN Security Council to hold its first meeting in the UN headquarters in New York on Myanmar in eight years, though the member countries failed to arrive at a joint resolution.

The US slammed the army for trying “to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority”, while Beijing and Moscow offered support to Myanmar authorities who have vehemently rebuffed allegations that ethnic cleansing is underway.

Speaking to the 15-member council, Guterres urged Myanmar to halt military operations and open humanitarian access to the conflict-wracked western region.

“The situation has spiralled into the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare,” he said, while calling for those displaced from the conflict to be allowed to return home.

The UN chief noted that the “systemic violence” could cause unrest to spill south to the central part of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, threatening 250,000 Muslims with displacement.

Some of the strongest criticism came from US envoy Nikki Haley, who accused Myanmar authorities of waging a “brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority”.

“It should shame senior Burmese leaders who have sacrificed so much for an open, democratic Burma,” she added, in what appeared to be a rebuke to the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose reputation as a human rights champion has been battered by the crisis. Burma is an alternative name for Myanmar.

But Myanmar received strong backing from Russia and China, a close ally and key trade partner.

“The international community must be aware of the difficulties faced by the Burmese government, be patient and provide its assistance,” Chinese envoy Wu Haitao said.

“We must be very careful when we talk about ethnic cleansing and genocide,” added Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, taking the Myanmar government line as he blamed Rohingya militants for “burning villages”.

Fires have razed hundreds of communities in northern Rakhine over the past month, in what rights groups say is an army-led effort to drive out the stateless minority that has faced decades of persecution. Myanmar, a mainly Buddhist country, has denied the allegation and defended its operations as a proportionate crackdown on the Rohingya militants whose deadly raids on police posts on August 25 sparked the military backlash.

Authorities have restricted access to the epicentre of the violence but agreed this week to allow a UN visit to the conflict zone.

The trip has been postponed to October 2 due to bad weather, state media reported Friday.

IK

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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