Myanmar warned on Wednesday that a scolding delivered by the UN Security Council could ‘seriously harm’ its talks with Bangladesh over returning home more than 600,000 people who fled to escape a Myanmar military crackdown.
In a statement on Monday, the Security Council had urged Myanmar to ‘ensure no further excessive use of military force’ and expressed ‘grave concern over reports of human rights violations and abuses in Rakhine State’.
Responding, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, whose less than two-year-old civilian administration shares power with the military, said the issues facing Myanmar and Bangladesh could only be resolved bilaterally, a point she says was ignored in the Security Council statement.
‘Furthermore, the (Security Council) Presidential Statement could potentially and seriously harm the bilateral negotiations between the two countries which have been proceeding smoothly and expeditiously,’ Suu Kyi’s office said in a statement.
Negotiations with Bangladesh were ongoing, it said, and the Bangladesh foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali had been invited to Myanmar on November 16 and November 17.
Bangladeshi officials said, however, that the earliest talks were likely to take place was during the minister’s visit for a regional meeting in the Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw on November 20 and November 21.
A senior Bangladesh foreign ministry official said the United Nations should be involved in the process to resolve the recurring problem of fleeing Rohingya.
‘For years, we tried to resolve this issue bilaterally with Myanmar, but it was in vain,’ the official said. ‘This problem is not going to be resolved anytime soon. The UN’s involvement in the process is a must.’
A sour note was struck over the talks last week, as Bangladesh officials voiced outrage over Suu Kyi’s spokesman casting suspicion that Bangladesh might drag its feet over the repatriation process in order to first secure hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid money.
Speaking at a conference for Commonwealth countries’ parliamentarians in Dhaka on Sunday, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina called for more international pressure on Myanmar.
‘I would request all of you to discuss Rohingya issue with utmost priority and exert pressure on the Myanmar government to stop the persecution of its citizens and take them back at the earliest,’ she said.
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson is due to visit Myanmar on November 15, with moves afoot in Washington to table a bill calling for sanctions on Myanmar that specifically target the military and related business interests.
In a nod to China, the Myanmar statement said it appreciated the stand taken by some members of the Security Council who upheld the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries.
To appease council veto powers Russia and China, Britain and France dropped a push for the Security Council to adopt a resolution on the situation and the 15-member body instead unanimously agreed on a formal statement.
The United Nations has denounced the violence during the past 10 weeks as a classic example of ethnic cleansing to drive the Rohingya Muslims out of Buddhist majority Myanmar.
Rejecting that accusation, the military says its counter-insurgency clearance operation was provoked by Rohingya militants’ synchronised attacks on 30 security posts in the northern part of Rakhine State on August 25.
Rohingya refugees say the military torched their villages, but the military say the arsonists were Rohingya militants. The refugees’ have given harrowing accounts of rape and murder. Myanmar says those accusations will have to be investigated.
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