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Politics

UN calls for Myanmar to rein in military against Rohingya

Security Council breaks silence to urge country to 'respect human rights' amid Rakhine turmoil

A group of Rohingya refugees cross a canal after traveling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh.   © Reuters

UNITED NATIONS -- The Security Council directed Myanmar to end the use of excessive military force against the ethnic Rohingya on Monday, citing "grave concern over reports of human rights violations and abuses."

The council adopted its first joint statement on Myanmar in nearly a decade, according to the U.K., which drafted the document.

Sebastiano Cardi, Italy's ambassador to the U.N., read the statement as rotating president of the council for November, noting reports of "systematic use of force and intimidation" and the "killing of men, women, and children [as well as] sexual violence," along with the burning of Rohingya homes by the military.

"The Security Council calls upon the government of Myanmar to ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine State ... and to take immediate steps in accordance with their obligations and commitments to respect human rights," Cardi read.

More than 607,000 mostly Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh since the most recent wave of violence in the region began Aug. 25, after insurgents from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked 30 police outposts in northern Rakhine State. Cardi also condemned the attacks by ARSA, expressing concern over rights abuses from the side of the insurgents.

Hau Do Suan, Myanmar's ambassador to the U.N., rejected the statement in remarks after its adoption, blasting the text for failing to "give sufficient recognition to the government of Myanmar for its efforts to address the challenges in Rakhine State."

The statement "will not help our efforts for solving the issue, but rather lead to further polarization and escalation of tensions among different religious communities in the country and beyond," the ambassador told council members, adding that it "exerts undue political pressure" on the Southeast Asian nation.

Hau Do Suan also blasted the "self-designated nomenclature" of the text. Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar has sought to keep the spotlight off the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group that has been barred from attaining a legal status by the government.

Speaking after Hau Do Suan, the representative of Bangladesh praised the statement, expressing hope that it would add impetus to addressing the problem. Bangladesh is struggling to host the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees with limited resources.

"The statement just made by my Myanmar counterpart now perhaps gives a flavor of the complex challenges to be encountered, not least the persistent denial of the situation on the ground," said Bangladesh's U.N. ambassador, Masud bin Momen.

The statement calls for a meeting of the council, to be attended by the secretary-general, to take place 30 days after the adoption of the document.

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