UN to meet over chief’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ claim

MYANMAR::Suu Kyi has remained silent on UN claims against her government, saying only that the nation welcomes the statements and it condemns terrorism

AFP, COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh

Wed, Sep 13, 2017 - Page 6

The UN Security Council is to hold an urgent meeting to discuss violence barreling through western Myanmar, after the UN’s rights chief warned that “ethnic cleansing” appeared to have driven the flight of over 300,000 Rohingya Muslims from the country.

The remote border region was plunged into crisis after Rohingya militants attacked police posts late last month, prompting a military backlash that has sent about one-third of the Muslim minority population fleeing to Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugees fleeing the unrest have told stories of soldiers and Buddhist mobs burning entire villages to the ground, while the government blames militants for the arson.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Monday said the violence seemed to be a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Hours after the warning, the Security Council announced it would meet today to discuss the crisis, which has heaped global opprobrium on Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

A Nobel peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi has been pilloried by rights groups for failing to speak up for the maligned Rohingya minority, who are denied citizenship by the state and have suffered years of persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

Late on Monday her office said Myanmar “welcomes the statements issued by the United Nations and a number of countries firmly condemning the terrorist attacks,” without mentioning the UN’s charge of ethnic cleansing.

The statement also defended the military’s operations as part of their “legitimate duty to restore stability,” saying troops were under orders “to exercise all due restraint and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians.”

Britain and Sweden requested the urgent UN Security Council meeting amid growing international concern over the ongoing violence, with fellow Nobel peace laureates urging Aung San Suu Kyi to intervene.

The council met behind closed doors late last month to discuss the violence, but there was no formal statement.

UN diplomats have said China, one of Myanmar’s top trade partners, has been resisting involvement by the top UN council in addressing the crisis.

“It’s a sign of the significant worry that Security Council members have about the situation that is continuing to deteriorate for the many Rohingyas who are seeking to flee Rakhine state,” British Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft told reporters.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has said the latest violence may have left more than 1,000 dead, most of them Rohingya.

The exodus, topping 313,000 refugees, has sparked a humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh, where refugee camps were already overcrowded and food and other aid is in short supply. Most refugees have walked for days in harrowing journeys across rivers and through jungle, arriving sick, exhausted and in desperate need of shelter, food and water.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have also fled their homes inside Rakhine, where aid programs have been severely curtailed due to the violence.