Saturday 17 March 2018

Myanmar urges allies to block UN sanctions over refugees

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Simon Lewis

Myanmar said yesterday it was negotiating with China and Russia to ensure it blocks any UN Security Council censure over the violence that has forced an exodus of nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh in less than two weeks.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi blamed "terrorists" for an "iceberg of misinformation" on the strife in the north-western state of Rakhine, but she made no mention of the Rohingya who have fled.

She has come under increasing pressure from countries with Muslim populations, including Indonesia, where thousands led by Islamist groups held a rally in Jakarta yesterday to demand that diplomatic ties with Buddhist-majority Myanmar be cut.

In a letter to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed fears that the violence could spiral into a "humanitarian catastrophe". He warned there was a risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar that could destabilise the region.

Myanmar national security adviser Thaung Tun told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that Myanmar was counting on China and Russia to block a UN resolution on the crisis.

"We are negotiating with some friendly countries not to take it to the Security Council," he said. "China is our friend and we have a similar friendly relationship with Russia."

Reporters in the Cox's Bazar region of neighbouring Bangladesh have witnessed boatloads of Rohingya arriving near the border village of Shamlapur.

According to the latest estimates by UN workers, arrivals in just 12 days stood at 146,000. This brought to 233,000 the total number of Rohingya who have sought refuge in Bangladesh since last October.

Ms Suu Kyi spoke by telephone on Tuesday with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed world leaders to do more to help a population he said were facing genocide.

In a statement issued by her office, Ms Suu Kyi said the government had "already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible" and warned against misinformation that could mar relations with other countries.

She referred to images on Twitter of killings posted by Turkey's deputy prime minister that he later deleted because they were not from Myanmar.

Ms Suu Kyi has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution, and some have called for the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 to be revoked.

Myanmar said its security forces are fighting a campaign against "terrorists" responsible for attacks on police posts and the army since last October.

Irish Independent

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