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UN committee calls for end to military operations in Rakhine

Rohingya Muslims wait to cross the border to Bangladesh, in a temporary camp outside Maungdaw town, northern Rakhine State, on 12 November 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

A United Nations General Assembly committee on Thursday called on Burma to end military operations that have “led to the systematic violation and abuse of human rights” of Rohingya Muslims in the country’s Rakhine State.

The move revived a UN resolution that was dropped last year due to the country’s progress on human rights.

The General Assembly’s Third Committee, which focuses on human rights, voted 135 in favor, 10 against with 26 abstentions on the draft text that also asks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy on Burma.

For 15 years the Third Committee annually adopted a resolution condemning Burma’s human rights record, but last year the European Union did not put forward a draft text, citing progress under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, in the past three months more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh after the Burmese military began an operation against Rohingya militants, who attacked 30 security posts and an army base in Rakhine State on 25 August.

This prompted the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to put forward a new draft UN resolution, which will now be formally adopted by the 193-member General Assembly next month. The resolution deepens international pressure, but has no legal consequences.

Burma’s army released a report on Monday denying all allegations of rapes and killings by security forces, days after replacing the general in charge of the military operation in Rakhine State.

Top UN officials have denounced the violence as a classic example of ethnic cleansing. The Burmese government has denied allegations of ethnic cleansing.

Burma is refusing entry to a UN panel that was tasked with investigating allegations of abuses after a smaller military counteroffensive launched in October 2016.

The draft resolution approved by the Third Committee on Thursday urges Burma to grant access. It also calls for full and unhindered humanitarian aid access and for Burma to grant full citizenship rights to Rohingya.

They have been denied citizenship in Burma, where many Buddhists regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The 15-member UN Security Council last week urged the Burmese government to “ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine State.” It asked Guterres to report back in 30 days.

Human Rights Watch accused Burmese security forces on Thursday of committing widespread rape against women and girls, echoing an allegation by Pramila Patten, the UN special envoy on sexual violence in conflict, earlier this week. Patten said sexual violence was “being commanded, orchestrated and perpetrated by the Armed Forces of Myanmar.”