The United Nations Security Council has come out with a unanimous statement asking Myanmar to end its military campaign in Rakhine state and ensure the safe return of Rohingya refugees, who were driven away from their homes.
The 15-member wing of the UN passed a statement on the issue but could not adopt a resolution as China and Russia vetoed it.
The Council instead unanimously agreed on a formal statement. It is only for the third time in nearly a decade that the UN Security Council adopted a presidential statement on Myanmar.
As a result of the alleged atrocities by security forces in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, more than 600,000 individuals, vast majority of whom are Rohingya Muslims, have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.
The unrest in troubled Rakhine state began after deadly attacks on police stations across the state, blamed on a newly emerged militant group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa).
Scores of people were killed in the ensuing military crackdown, and there are widespread allegations of villages being burned and Rohingya being driven out.
The military in Myanmar says its operations are aimed at rooting out militants, and has repeatedly denied targeting civilians. But survivors, witnesses and refugees have vehemently contested this.
UNSC statement called for the Government of Myanmar to co-operate with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It stressed on the importance of holding to account those responsible for human rights abuses and violations. The UNSC also demanded safe, unhindered access for its agencies and their partners to provide humanitarian assistance.
The Council urged Myanmar to support the voluntary, safe and dignified return of displaced people and refugees to their homes in Rakhine State.
It recommended the efforts undertaken by Bangladesh, with the assistance of the United Nations, their partners and other nongovernmental organisations, to provide safety, shelter, and humanitarian assistance to those who have fled the violence.
“The humanitarian situation remains desperate,” Jonathan Allen, Britain’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN told reporters after the presidential statement on Myanmar.
Britain has repeatedly called on the Myanmar security forces to protect all civilians and act now to stop the violence and allow humanitarian aid to urgently reach all those who need it, he said.
“We are encouraged to see State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi making important steps forward, including establishing a domestic body to deliver humanitarian and development assistance in Rakhine, although this cannot substitute for UN agencies and making efforts to promote interfaith and inter-communal harmony, including a recent visit to northern Rakhine,” he added.
(With inputs from agencies)