Myanmar plays diplomatic card with ‘friend’ China to avert UN censure over Rohingya crisis
UN chief warns of ethnic cleansing and regional destabilisation
Myanmar said it was negotiating with China and Russia to ensure they blocked any UN Security Council censure over the violence that could force an exodus of 300,000 Rohingya Muslims to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” on the strife in the northwestern state of Rakhine but, in a statement, she made no mention of the Rohingya who have fled.
In a rare letter to the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern the violence could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
He warned on Tuesday that there was a risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar that could destabilise the region.
Myanmar National Security Adviser Thaung Tun told a Wednesday news conference in the capital, Naypyidaw, that Myanmar was counting on China and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, 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, so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward.”
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said he believed the 15-member Security Council had sent a signal – by meeting behind closed doors on the issue a week ago – that it would like to see the situation calm down.
“We called for restraint,” he said.
“The Security Council for the time being did what it could do.”
Reuters reporters in the Cox’s Bazar region of neighbouring Bangladesh have witnessed boatloads of exhausted Rohingya arriving near the border village of Shamlapur.
According to the latest estimates issued by UN workers operating there, arrivals in just 12 days stood at 146,000.
The UN officials in Bangladesh now estimate that the total number of refugees from Myanmar since August 25 could reach up to 300,000, said Dipayan Bhattacharyya, who is Bangladesh spokesman for the World Food Programme (WFP).
Newly arrived Rohingyas told authorities that three boats carrying a total of more than 100 people capsized in the early hours of Wednesday. Coastguard Commander M.S. Kabir said six bodies, including three children, had washed ashore.