UPDATED at 10:52 A.M. EDT on 2018-10-19
Myanmar officials on Thursday said the country will lobby its allies on the U.N. Security Council to block any possible decisions by the body based on next week's briefing by a U.N. fact-finding mission that investigated atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
The United States was among the nine nations on the 15-member Council that voted on Tuesday for a briefing by the panel’s chairman, Marzuki Darusman, to get additional information on the situation and its implications for global peace and security. Nine of 15 votes are required to approve agenda items.
The fact-finding mission’s 444-page report issued on Sept. 18 detailed violence by Myanmar security forces and called for the prosecution of top military commanders on genocide charges at the International Criminal Court or by another criminal tribunal.
The results of the vote prompted a strong objection to the Council’s request by Hau Do Suan, Myanmar’s permanent representative of Myanmar to the U.N., who called it “one-sided.”
“We objected to the U.N. Security Council holding the meeting, but nobody can object to it now by vetoing it, according to the rules,” said Chan Aye, director general of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The U.N. Security Council’s meeting will be held between October 22 and 26, and we have to adhere to its decision, but Myanmar and its ally countries are working on not having a decision issued by the Council,” he said. China and Russia, two of five countries that wield veto power on Security Council resolutions, are Myanmar allies.
Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government, said it was unacceptable for Myanmar as a sovereign state to be subject to a “forced decision” by the U.N.
“The U.N. knows how much responsibility, rights, and authority the current government has [to make decisions in Myanmar],” he said, referring to the civilian government’s limited power over Myanmar’s military. “That’s why we would like to request that the U.N. Security Council do something acceptable.”
If the U.N. forces Myanmar to do what it wants the country to do to try to resolve the Rakhine issue, it will create further divisions among Buddhists and Muslims in the region, and there will be no chance of reconciliation, he said.
The two communities “will be eternal enemies. That would be fuel for the fire,” Myo Nyunt said
To try to prevent this from happening, Myanmar’s leaders should determine how the country will resolve the Rakhine crisis and ask parliament to come up with a clear-cut foreign policy that they can take to the U.N., said Naing Ko Ko, a Myanmar political researcher at Australian National University.
Activist Thet Swe Win said he welcomed the Security Council’s vote on the briefing by the fact-finding mission.
“We should tell them that we have a problem in the country, if we really have one,” he said. “It’s a shame to avoid it by pretending as if we have no problem.”
“This issue will become more serious if the government ignores the truth out of fear of losing power in the next election or of having difficulties with opposition groups,” he said.
Meanwhile, pressure from the international community continues to build for Myanmar to be held accountable for widespread atrocities committed against the Rohingya during a crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017, which drove 720,000 Muslims across the border and into Bangladesh.
The government has largely denied the attacks and defended the brutal campaign by security forces as a necessary measure to stop Rohingya militants responsible for deadly attacks on police outposts.
The U.N. report on Rakhine, as well as those of human rights groups, have condemned the Rohingya militant group as well as Myanmar’s military and the Rakhine groups that abetted the killings.
As part of the increased pressure, the European Union is considering trade sanctions on Myanmar over human rights abuses, which would remove the country’s tariff-free access to the bloc.
In June, The EU imposed sanctions on senior military officials in Myanmar deemed responsible for violations against the Rohingya, freezing the assets of seven Myanmar army, border guard, and police officials. The officials were also banned from traveling to the EU.
Two months earlier, the EU strengthened an existing arms embargo on Myanmar, prohibiting military training and cooperation with the country’s army.
The U.S. and Canada have also imposed sanctions on Myanmar military officers.
“Myanmar will be subject to more [international] pressure now that the EU says it will impose sanctions against it country,” said political analyst Aung Thu Nyein.
“If Myanmar believes that the fact-finding mission’s report is wrong, then it should correct it fact by fact,” he said.
Reported by Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.