The United Nations Security Council has called on Myanmar to end a military campaign in Rakhine State and allow the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh.
The call was made in a formal statement approved by all council members, including China, at UN headquarters in New York on November 6.
The statement expressed “grave concern over reports of human rights violations and abuses in Rakhine State, including by the Myanmar security forces, in particular against persons belonging to the Rohingya community”.
It called on the government “to ensure no further excessive use of military forces in Rakhine State, to restore civilian administration and apply the rule of law, and to take immediate steps in accordance with their obligations and commitments to respect human rights”.
The statement included most of the demands contained in a draft resolution presented last month by Britain and France that was strongly opposed by China and for which Beijing was thanked at the time by Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
China had indicated it was prepared to use its veto power to block a resolution, but had agreed to the November 6 statement during negotiations, diplomats said.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August 25, when attacks by Islamic extremists on border guard police posts in northern Rakhine triggered a massive Tatmadaw counter-insurgency operation.
The UN has described the violence as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, an allegation denied by the government.
The council statement stressed the importance of transparent investigations into allegations of human rights abuses in northern Rakhine, including sexual violence and abuse and violence against children.
“In this regard, the Security Council calls upon the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with all relevant United Nations bodies, mechanisms and instruments,” the statement said.
The statement also called on the government to allow the immediate, safe and unhindered access to UN and other humanitarian actors to northern Rakhine and to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel.
The statement welcomed the government’s support for recommendations made by Annan commission and called for their full implementation. It also welcomed the government’s recent decision to establish the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine.
Addressing the council, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, U Hau Do Suan, said the statement “exerts undue political pressure on Myanmar” and warned it could exacerbate religious tensions.
During negotiations with China, language on citizenship rights was watered down, along with a specific demand for Myanmar allow a UN human rights mission into the country, diplomats told AFP.
The statement also encouraged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special adviser on Myanmar.
France and Britain stressed that the top UN body was issuing “demands” to Myanmar and that Guterres would report on progress in 30 days.
Through the statement, “the Security Council expresses a strong and unanimous message to end the ethnic cleansing that is taking place before our eyes in Myanmar,” said French ambassador to the UN Mr Francois Delattre.
“We will judge Myanmar on how they act. They have 30 days before the secretary-general will report,” said British deputy UN ambassador Mr Jonathan Allen.