China resists push at UN for Myanmar probe of Rakhine attacks

By AFP

UNITED NATIONS – China is resisting a British-led push at the UN Security Council to increase pressure on Myanmar to try those responsible for attacks on the Rohingya, according to a draft statement seen by AFP on Tuesday.

Back from a visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh, the Security Council is holding negotiations on a statement that would outline steps to address the crisis.

Britain last week circulated a draft text that stressed the importance of “credible and transparent investigations” of human rights violations and urged Myanmar to hold those responsible to account.

China, a supporter of Myanmar’s former ruling junta, on Monday put forward an amended statement that dropped all mention of investigations or accountability.

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Myanmar has come under international scrutiny since a military campaign launched in August drove more than 700,000 Rohingya from their homes in northern Rakhine State.

China’s draft statement stresses “the need to address the root causes of the issue,” and calls for investment in Rakhine state to “achieve stability through development”.

Diplomats said Britain, backed by France and the United States along with other council members, had rejected the proposed changes by China.

Negotiations were continuing ahead of a council meeting on Myanmar on Monday.

The 15 ambassadors last week met with traumatized refugees living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh and toured burned-out villages in Rakhine State.

The council adopted a statement in November that called on Myanmar to rein in its military, but there has been no resolution – a stronger measure that China, as one of the veto-wielding permanent members, would likely block.

‘Crimes against humanity’

Myanmar has said the military operation in Rakhine is aimed at rooting out extremists and has rejected accusations from the United Nations, Britain, France and the United States of “ethnic cleansing”.

Four human rights groups told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York that the council should immediately ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation for crimes against humanity in Myanmar.

“It’s clear that the Myanmar authorities are unable to hold themselves to account,” said Ms Param-Preet Singh, associate director for international justice at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Myanmar has refused to allow a UN fact-finding mission set up by the Human Rights Council to enter the country, and has barred UN rights expert Ms Yanghee Lee.

HRW, Amnesty International, Fortify Rights and the Global Center for Responsibility to Protect said the council should put forward a draft resolution on referring Myanmar to the ICC even though China would likely veto such a move.

“The threat of a veto is no excuse for inaction,” said Ms Savita Pawnday, the deputy executive director of the Global Centre.

Fortify Rights, which has documented massacres, gang-rape and widespread arson attacks targeting the Rohingya in Rakhine, is calling for a global arms embargo on Myanmar and targeted sanctions.

Mr Matthew Smith, the head of Fortify Rights, said his organization had a list of “dozens” of military and civilian officials involved in the attacks that reaches “straight to the top” of the army. 

The council has urged Myanmar to allow the safe return of the Rohingya and take steps to end decades of discrimination that they have suffered in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

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