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UN calls on Myanmar to stop attacks on Rohingya Muslims

Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into

Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, rest inside a school compound at Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, on Oct. 23, 2017. Credit: AP / Dar Yasin

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council issued a presidential statement Monday calling on the government of Myanmar to stop using excessive force against the Rohingya minority Muslim population that has been fleeing en masse from attacks by the army in recent weeks.

But the statement also condemned attacks by Rohingya whose violence against police forces, it said, helped trigger the latest round of bloodshed.

“The Security Council strongly condemns the widespread violence that has taken place in Rakhine State, Myanmar, since 25 August, which has led to the mass displacement of more than 607,000 individuals, the vast majority belonging to the Rohingya community,” read the statement, which does not carry the force of a resolution, but could lead to further action.

Adopted unanimously by the 15-member council, the statement comes several weeks into the escalating humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. Some 606,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since the outbreak of violence in August in response to an attack on Myanmar’s police forces by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

UN officials have called the Rohingya the world’s largest stateless minority, without citizenship in any nation.

In a report released Thursday on stateless populations, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said their plight — as unprotected victims of discrimination, violence, sexual exploitation and even a form of ethnic cleansing — is typical of stateless peoples existing precariously on the margins of society.

“Stateless people are just seeking the same basic rights that all citizens enjoy,” Grandi said. “But stateless minorities, like the Rohingya, often suffer from entrenched discrimination and a systematic denial of their rights.”

A United Nations Children’s Fund report released Thursday also noted that Rohingya children who have fled to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, are showing a high rate of malnutrition.

“The Rohingya children in the camp — who have survived horrors in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State and a dangerous journey here — are already caught up in a catastrophe,” said UNICEF Bangladesh Representative Edouard Beigbeder. “Those with severe malnutrition are now at risk of dying from an entirely preventable and treatable cause.”

The statement also comes after a UN special rapporteur in human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said the problems have been cultivated over years.

“The crisis in Rakhine state has not only been decades in the making, but has for some time gone beyond Myanmar’s borders,” she said late last month in a report to the UN General Assembly. “For a very long time now this issue has not been simply a domestic affair. . . . It has been cultivated for decades in the minds of the Myanmar people that the Rohingya are not indigenous to the country and therefore have no rights whatsoever to which they can apparently claim.”

Jonathan Allen, the United Kingdom’s deputy ambassador to the UN, said after the statement was released that “The UK has repeatedly called on the Burmese security forces to protect all civilians and act now to stop the violence and allow humanitarian aid to urgently reach all those who need it.”

He added: “We are encouraged to see State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi making important steps forward, including establishing a domestic body to deliver humanitarian and development assistance in Rakhine — although this cannot substitute for UN agencies — and making efforts to promote interfaith and intercommunal harmony, including a recent visit to northern Rakhine.”

The Security Council statement said, “The Security Council stresses the primary responsibility of the Government of Myanmar to protect its population including through respect for the rule of law and the respect, promotion and protection of human rights.”

The Security Council statement required authorities in Myanmar to allow access to media organizations and humanitarian aid groups and asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report back on the situation in 30 days.

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