Myanmar said on September 6 it is negotiating with China and Russia to ensure they block any UN Security Council censure over the violence that has forced an exodus of nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh in less than two weeks.
In her statement, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” on the strife in the northwestern state of Rakhine. However, she made no mention of the Rohingya who have fled.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, she has come under increasing pressure from countries with Muslim populations, including Indonesia, where thousands led by Islamist groups held a rally in Jakarta on September 6, to demand that diplomatic ties with Buddhist-majority Myanmar be cut.
In a rare letter to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern that the violence could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
He warned there was a risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar that could destabilise the region.
But Myanmar National Security Adviser Thaung Tun told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, 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.”
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. This brought to 233,000 the total number of Rohingya who have sought refuge in Bangladesh since last October.
“People have come with virtually nothing so there has to be food,” a UN source working there said. “So this is now a huge concern – where is this food coming from for at least the elderly, the children, the women who have come over without their husbands?”
According to Reuters, the latest violence began when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base. The ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive killed at least 400 people and triggered the exodus of villagers to Bangladesh.
Myanmar officials blame Rohingya militants for the burning of homes and civilian deaths. The government said 26,747 non-Muslim residents had been displaced.
However, rights monitors and Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh say the Myanmar army is trying to force them out with a campaign of arson and killings.