Thursday, December 28, 2017

UN taking sides could worsen Rohingya crisis

By Zhang Yi Source:Global Times 

China, Russia and some regional countries have opposed a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on Sunday to address the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

Tens of thousands of Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh during the crisis after a military operation was launched by the Myanmar government in Rakhine state in late August.

While Myanmar authorities insist that the campaign was aimed at rooting out Rohingya militants who attacked police posts, the UN called the situation in Rakhine similar to "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

The Rohingya crisis is a serious long-term issue for the Myanmar government that arose from a complex historic, ethnic and religious backdrop. It has evolved from a matter of domestic politics to one of regional security and international concern.

The US, traditionally vocal about human rights, has re-imposed selective sanctions on Myanmar, the latest blacklisting a Myanmar general responsible for security operations in Rakhine state. The new UN resolution calls on the Myanmar government to allow access for aid workers, ensure the return of all refugees and grant full citizenship rights to the Rohingya.

However, sanctions, and too much agitation by external powers against Myanmar, will undermine and impede efforts to end the crisis. Ensuring stability in Myanmar and bringing relevant sides to political consultations combine to form the pressing and pragmatic approach for the moment.

China has put forward a three-phase proposal to address the crisis and promote regional stability, and one of the steps is to encourage talks between Myanmar and Bangladesh, the two stakeholders involved in the crisis. The agreement reached to repatriate Rohingya refugees shows that the proposal has found some traction as a solution to the crisis.

Mediation by external powers, especially the UN which identifies mediation as an important means for the peaceful settlement of disputes and conflicts, should weigh equally on all sides instead of complicating the issues by taking one side.

Human rights agendas have positive implications. However, geopolitical factors on the international stage can make the issue a tool by some countries to exploit political gains. As a result, the targeted countries often find their human rights conditions do not improve but worsen as they are dragged into war. Syria is a textbook example.

Although taking strong action against Myanmar by citing "ethnic cleansing" sounds like a morally correct move in Western rhetoric, it will not help address the Rohingya crisis in the country. The international community should generously contribute to the peaceful settlement of the crisis. At the current stage, the UN should support and help the Myanmar government to find a solution first, instead of blaming or shifting all the responsibilities to Myanmar.
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