Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and persecution by the majority Buddhist population in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship despite centuries-old roots in the country.
The current crisis erupted on Aug. 25, when an insurgent Rohingya group attacked police outposts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, killing a dozen security personnel.
That prompted Myanmar’s military to launch “clearance operations” against the rebels, setting off a wave of violence that has left hundreds dead, thousands of homes burned, and tens of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh.
Guterres reiterated his condemnations of the attacks by the insurgent Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but said reported attacks by security forces against civilians “are completely unacceptable.”
The secretary-general called on Myanmar’s authorities “to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country.” He also reiterated his call for the government to grant the Rohingyas nationality or at least legal status so they can get jobs, education and health care.
The Security Council statement acknowledged the Aug. 25 attacks on Myanmar’s security forces but it “condemned the subsequent violence” that sent more than 370,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.
Council members in the statement “expressed concern about reports of excessive violence during the security operations and called for immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine, de-escalate the situation, re-establish law and order, ensure the protection of civilians, restore normal socio-economic conditions, and resolve the refugee problem.”
The Security Council also urged the government to implement the recommendations of a commission led by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan calling for economic development and social justice to counter deadly violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state.
A Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations were closed, said even though the U.S., U.K., Sweden and others wanted a tougher statement, many council members said it was “a considerable achievement” that all 15 countries including China agreed to send a clear message to Myanmar’s government and military.
The diplomat said there will be pressure for more council action if Myanmar authorities do not change course.
Britain’s Rycroft said several council members called for a follow-up open council meeting and a presidential statement on the Myanmar crisis, which unlike a press statement becomes part of the Security Council’s official record.
He said Britain, which is in charge of drafting Myanmar statements, “will get to work” on that.
Rycroft said that on the sidelines of next week’s gathering of world leaders at the General Assembly British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will co-host a ministerial-level meeting on Myanmar. He said Turkey is also hosting a meeting on Myanmar organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Myanmar’s government announced Wednesday that the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend next week’s global gathering. She has been sharply criticized, especially as a former Nobel peace prize winner, for not dealing with the Rohingya crisis. (AP=Newsis)