A top-level Myanmar government official told members of the international community on Tuesday that Myanmar has made progress in dealing with the situation in restive Rakhine state and that a resolution by the United Nations was “less than constructive” in addressing the situation.
The United Nation Human Rights Council issued a resolution in March calling for the dispatch of an independent, international fact-finding mission to investigate the alleged recent human rights violations by security forces in Rohingya Muslim communities in the northern part of the state.
Soldiers carried out a four-month crackdown in the area following a deadly raid on border guard posts in October 2016, which officials blamed on Rohingya militants in the country’s impoverished and religiously and ethnically divided westernmost area.
“We disassociated ourselves from the decision not because we do not wish to cooperate with the United Nations, nor do we take lightly the concerns expressed by the member countries of that council, but because the draft resolution was less than constructive,” said National Security Advisor Thaung Tun at the National Reconciliation and Peace Center in Yangon.
Slides that accompanied the presentation said that the resolution “did not reflect the situation on the ground” and took into account “no consideration of the government’s efforts to stabilize the situation
and to address the root cause” of the instability in the region that is divided between Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
The U.N. previously said that reports of atrocities committed during the crackdown that killed an estimated 1,000 people and displaced about 90,000 Rohingya, most of whom fled to neighboring Bangladesh where they are living in refugee camps, may amount to genocide or ethnic cleansing.
“What we need is help and cooperation,” Thaung Tun told diplomats, U.N. agency personnel, and reporters at the briefing. “What we need is encouragement. What we need is people to join hands with
us to move the situation forward, and not to put obstacles in the way.”
“Only when people are free from poverty and despair can the work of rebuilding trust and confidence succeed,” he said. “We need to build confidence. If we have resolutions that do not promote confidence and trust, we are not going to move the situation forward.”
He noted that the government is complying with most of the roughly 30 recommendations by a Rakhine advisory committee headed by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, by opening the restricted areas in northern Rakhine to the media, allowing increased humanitarian access, and agreeing to close down three internally displaced persons camps in the towns of Kyaukphyu, Sittwe, and Ramree.
Thaung Tun reiterated the government’s previous assertion that there had been no ethnic cleansing in northern Rakhine state.
"There is no ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Rakhine,” he said. “It is a matter of people on different sides of the divide, and the government is striving to overcome the situation and to close the gap.”
Thaung Tun also said that Myanmar is encouraging refugees to return and pledged that where there is evidence of wrongdoing, action will be taken against those responsible according to law.
Reported by Hay Mar Soe for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.