Myanmar said on Wednesday that the U.N. Security Council’s statement on the Rohingya refugee crisis could “seriously harm” its talks with Bangladesh over repatriating more than 600,000 people who have fled there to escape a Myanmar military crackdown. The Security Council had urged Myanmar, in a statement on Monday, to “ensure no further excessive use of military force” and had expressed “grave concern over reports of human rights violations and abuses in Rakhine State”. Responding, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, whose less than two year-old civilian administration shares power with the military, said the issues facing Myanmar and Bangladesh could only be resolved bilaterally, a point she says was ignored in the Security Council statement. “Furthermore, the (Security Council) Presidential Statement could potentially and seriously harm the bilateral negotiations between the two countries which have been proceeding smoothly and expeditiously,” Suu Kyi’s office said in a statement.
Negotiations with Bangladesh were ongoing it said, and the Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali had been invited to Myanmar from Nov. 16-17. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is due to visit Myanmar a day earlier, on Nov. 15, with moves afoot in Washington to bring a bill calling for sanctions on Myanmar that specifically target the military and related business interests. In a nod to China, the Myanmar statement said it appreciated the stand taken by some members of the Security Council who upheld the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. To appease council veto powers Russia and China, Britain and France dropped a push for the Security Council to adopt a resolution on the situation and the 15-member body instead unanimously agreed on a formal statement.
The United Nations has denounced the violence during the past 10 weeks as a classic example of ethnic cleansing to drive the Rohingya Muslims out of Buddhist majority Myanmar. The military says its counter-insurgency clearance operation was provoked by Rohingya militants’ synchronised attacks on 30 security posts in the northern part of Rakhine State on Aug. 25. Rohingya refugees say the military torched their villages, but the military say the arsonists were Rohingya militants. The refugees’ have given harrowing accounts of rape and murder. Myanmar says those accusations will have to be investigated.