The UN Security Council has widely condemned Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, and also raised issues of terrorism and the attack on Hindus.
On Thursday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “In Myanmar, the situation has spiralled into the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.”
He also slammed the the Rohingya rebels for attacking police checkposts in Rakhine state killing 12 security personnel triggering the mass violence and the exodus of over 500,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh.
“The current crisis has steadily deteriorated since the August 25 attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on the Myanmar security forces… I repeat my condemnation of those attacks.”
ARSA is a separatist organisation that wants to create an Islamic state in Rakhine and is led by Ata Ullah, a Pakistan-born ethnic Rohingya who has lived in Saudi Arabia.
The Security Council heard from all its 15 members and also Myanmar and Bangladesh, but did not take any action or pass resolutions.
Guterres said that the Myanmar military should immediately stop its operations, allow humanitarian aid to reach the affected people and allow the Rohingya Muslims to return home.
US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley accused Myanmar of ethnic cleansing.
“We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be: a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority.”
Most of the other Security Council members echoed her strong condemnation of the Myanmar government and Guterres’s demands.
Russia’s Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia said that according to reports, the ARSA was guilty of killing civilians and had forced Hindus flee to Bangladesh.
Zambrana, a delegate of Bolivia, called for investigation of all actions that exacerbated tensions and incited violence, noting that besides the Rohingyas there were other victims including Hindus.
Bangladesh Permanent Representative Masud Bin Momen said that reports of “Muslims killing Hindus” should be seen as the Myanmar government’s failure to protect its people.
He added that allegations and counter-allegations of atrocities must be fully investigated by the Security Council.
Myanmar’s National Security Adviser U Thaung Tun alleged that a large number of Hindu villagers have been massacred and buried in mass graves.
Egypt’s Permanent Representative Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta said that backing the rights of the Rohingya Muslims did not mean supporting violence of any related groups.
“It is important to ask: What choice are we leaving to these people, other than taking up arms to defend themselves?”
U Thaung said that the root of the crisis was terrorism and not religion and “terrorism constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security”.
He invited Guterres to visit Myanmar and said that diplomats and mediapersons will visit Rakhine next week.
Myanmar is ready to hold talks with Bangladesh on arranging the return of refugees, U Thaung said.
“Our stated willingness to discuss the issue of repatriation gives the lie to the assertion that there is a policy of ethnic cleansing on our part.”