China says pressure unhelpful in resolving Rohingya issue


File photo shows Rohingya refugees arriving at the Bangladeshi side of the Naf River after crossing the border from Myanmar, in Palang Khali, Bangladesh. — Reuters photo

BEIJING: China said yesterday that exerting pressure was not helpful in resolving the issue of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar after UN investigators said Myanmar’s military had carried out mass killings of members of the minority.

A UN report issued on Monday marked the first time the United Nations had explicitly called for Myanmar officials to face genocide charges over their campaign against the Rohingya, and is likely to deepen Myanmar isolation.

The investigators called for the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Myanmar, subject its officials to targeted sanctions, and set up an ad hoc tribunal to try suspects or refer them to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

But China has close relations with Myanmar, and has backed what Myanmar officials call a legitimate counter-insurgency operation in the western state of Rakhine. Beijing has helped to block a resolution on the crisis at the UN Security Council in the past.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, when asked about the report, told a regular news briefing that the historical, religious and ethnic background of the Rakhine issue was ‘extremely complex’.

“I think that unilateral criticism or exerting pressure is actually not helpful to resolving the problem,” Hua said.

A year ago, Myanmar government troops led a crackdown in Rakhine State in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents on 30 police posts and a military base.

Some 700,000 Rohingya fled the crackdown and most are now living in refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Hua said Myanmar and Bangladesh had recently made positive progress in talks, in an apparent reference to an agreement to complete the voluntary repatriation of the refugees within two years.

“Under these circumstances the international community should continue to play a constructive role in promoting Myanmar and Bangladesh appropriately resolving the Rakhine State issue via dialogue and consultations,” Hua said.

The UN investigators said in their report that the Myanmar military action was “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”, and they blamed civilian government leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to use her ‘moral authority’ to protect civilians. — Reuters