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Politics

UN rebukes Myanmar rights violations against Rohingya

Country rejects resolution calling for accountability against military

UNITED NATIONS -- U.N. member states called Thursday for an end to the military operations by Myanmar that have led to "the systematic violation and abuse of human rights" against the country's Rohingya Muslim community, in a resolution that also urged accountability for the perpetrators.

"Today is a sad day for Myanmar," Hau Do Suan, the country's U.N. ambassador, said after the resolution was adopted, rejecting the document as an attempt to politicize the situation in Myanmar's Rakhine state and claiming it had "no moral authority."

The text passed by a 135-10 vote in the U.N.'s Third Committee, a branch of the General Assembly dealing with human rights and humanitarian issues. The resolution slams the military's response to the Aug. 25 attacks by insurgents on police outposts in Rakhine, a response that resulted in the displacement of some 600,000 ethnic Rohingya. The military is accused of extrajudicial killings, rape, arbitrary detention and large-scale destruction of homes including through arson.

The U.N. members called on Myanmar to grant full citizenship to the Rohingya, who are legally unrecognized by the government. The resolution also asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy on Myanmar.

Hau Do Suan addressed the committee ahead of the vote, urging countries to reject the text and suggesting that the political pressures of such a resolution undermine the positive efforts made by a democracy still in its infancy.

"It is imperative that the international community join hands with us to ensure that democracy takes firm root and that we will succeed in carrying out our responsibility to establish peace, stability and development in Rakhine state and in the whole of Myanmar," the ambassador said.

China and Russia, which back the military, were among the 10 countries voting in opposition. Both are permanent members of the Security Council, where action on the Myanmar crisis has long been blocked. Another 26 nations abstained on the text, drafted by countries in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

A representative from Saudi Arabia, one of the text's main sponsors, called the situation in Rakhine an "inhumane scene" and highlighted the challenges faced by the Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

Aerial view of a burned Rohingya village in Rakhine.   © Reuters

"Their humanity is in danger, their cultural rights are being flouted, their villages are being set ablaze," the representative said. The envoy further suggested that as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi is responsible for ensuring such rights violations do not occur.

Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director at Human Rights Watch, applauded the resolution in a statement, calling it "a strong message to Myanmar that the world will not stand by while its military engages in ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya."

"This resolution also puts to shame the U.N. Security Council, which, largely due to Chinese obstruction, has not acted but should now adopt sanctions against those responsible for the atrocities and refer the situation to the International Criminal Court," Charbonneau said.

A Chinese representative told the Third Committee that Myanmar's government "is making positive efforts" to improve the situation in Rakhine and suggested the situation is "trending stable."

"The U.N. and the international community should remain patient and provide constructive assistance to Myanmar instead of complicating the issue," the representative said before the adoption.

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