UN, China clash over Rohingya crisis
DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN Desk) – Beijing says United Nations resolution on ‘crimes against humanity’ cannot solve refugee disaster
The rift between China and the global community over the Rohingya crisis widened on Wednesday with Beijing voting against a United Nations resolution condemning Myanmar for “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity”.
The UN has warned against repatriating more than 620,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar without first ensuring safety there. The refugees fled a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine after Rohingya militants attacked border posts in the state in August.
China is brokering a three-phase solution to the crisis that starts with a ceasefire in Rakhine, while Bangladesh and Myanmar last month signed a deal to start repatriating Rohingya within the next two months.
“I think everyone in the UN system agrees on the fact that no-one should be repatriated against their will, that refugees should go home to their place where they came from and in an atmosphere that is free and that respects their rights,” said spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric on Tuesday.
China said on Wednesday that the latest UN resolution expressing grave concern over widespread abuses committed against Myanmar’s Rohingya “cannot help to ease the tensions and solve the problem”.
“It will probably complicate the issue and have some negative influence on implementing the repatriation agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
“This is not in the interest of Bangladesh, Myanmar or the international community.”
China was one of only three countries that opposed the resolution, which passed Tuesday with 33 of the council’s 47 member states voting in its favour.
The army-led crackdown has forced about 626,000 people to flee across the border into squalid camps in Bangladesh, and left hundreds of villages burned to the ground.
Myanmar’s military vehemently denies accusations by the UN and the US that it has committed ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.
But in his address to Tuesday’s special council session, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein went even further, AFP reports, by suggesting that “elements of genocide may be present”.
Al Hussein warned against premature repatriation of any refugees in absence of sustained human rights monitoring on the ground and without first addressing the root causes of the crisis.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) sent three teams to Bangladesh this year to monitor the situation and interview the refugees.
The witnesses reported acts of appalling barbarity including burning people to death inside their homes, murders of children and adults, indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians, widespread rape of women and girls, and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques.
Beijing has geopolitical and economic interests in Myanmar, and particularly in Rakhine, where it is developing Kyaukpyu Port and a special economic zone. Rakhine also hosts a major pipeline pumping oil to China from the Middle East.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited Beijing last week, meeting with President Xi Jinping and attending a global meeting of political organisations hosted by the Chinese Communist Party.