An exhausted Rohingya refugee boy sleeps on the ground after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border while being detained by the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) near Inani beach in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Nov. 7, 2017. (Xinhua/REUTERS)
by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Monday issued a presidential statement both complimenting and criticizing Myanmar for its action and inaction in its violence-wracked Rakhine State and gave the government a month to get its act together.
In response, Myanmar's representative to the United Nations Hau Do Suan complained that the statement put undue political pressure on his country.
More than 600,000 ethnic Muslim Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh in a little over two months from northern Rakhine State following deadly rebel attacks on security posts on Aug. 25 which touched off retribution. The full extent of the violence remains unknown because of the government's restriction on visits to the region.
Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi of Italy, this month's president of the council, read out the 1,300-word statement at a formal session, the first statement on Myanmar in 10 years.
While such an official statement reflects the consensus of the 15 council members, it does not hold the weight of international law like a resolution does.
The statement strongly condemned attacks against the Myanmar security forces carried out by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Aug. 25, then expressed "grave concern" over the government response, the alleged burning of villages and threats to villagers to flee, among others.
The council said the government's primary responsibility is protection of Myanmar's population, citizens or not.
It called for reform in Myanmar's security and justice sectors and urged the government to work with Bangladesh and the UN to allow the voluntary return of refugees to their homes, on the basis of an Oct. 24 memorandum of understanding between the two countries.
The panel welcomed a "union enterprise mechanism" for humanitarian assistance, resettlement and development in Rakhine.
It recommended the government ensure the mechanism supported such return and allow UN agencies full access, urging governments and all humanitarian partners to pay special attention to the needs of women, particularly survivors of sexual violence.
The council also welcomed the Myanmar government's public support for recommendations by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State chaired by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and called for their full implementation.
It urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to consider appointing a special advisor on Myanmar.
But Hau Do Suan expressed serious concern over the statement, which he said would not help resolve the issue as it placed undue political pressure on Myanmar.
The ambassador said the Aug. 25 ARSA attacks involved unspecified foreign militants fighting beside the rebels.
Since those late August attacks and the alleged retribution, more than 600,000 Rohingyas fled in fear of death or mutilation to refuge in make-shift camps in neighboring Bangladesh, UN officials said. Some fled by land, others in leaky boats over an inlet of the Bay of Bengal.
Eventually the UN refugee agency UNHCR and other humanitarian groups with the aid of the government of Bangladesh were able to organize camps in the Cox's Bazar region. The largest is Kutupalong, which now has an extension where new refugees are being sent.
In the last two weeks, 4,000 refugees entered Bangladesh while four people drowned in a shipwreck while fleeing, officials said.
The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund said it feared disease hitting the untold numbers of malnourished youngsters in the camps.