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Philippines won’t join UN condemnation of attacks on Rohingya

In the resolution, UN member-states said they were “highly alarmed” by the violence and “further alarmed by the disproportionate use of force by the Myanmar forces” against the Rohingya. AP Photo/Dar Yasin, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is one of 10 countries that did not support a United Nations resolution calling on Myanmar authorities to end a military campaign against Rohingya Muslims in the nation’s Rakhine state.

The General Assembly’s human rights committee adopted on Thursday the measure presented by Muslim countries by a vote of 135 to 10, with 26 countries abstaining.

In the resolution, UN member-states said they were “highly alarmed” by the violence and “further alarmed by the disproportionate use of force by the Myanmar forces” against the Rohingya.

The resolution also requested that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appoint a special envoy to the predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.

Apart from the Philippines, Russia, China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Syria, Zimbabwe and Belarus did not vote for the measure. The non-binding measure now goes to the full assembly for debate next month.

More than 600,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled Myanmar since the military operation was launched in Rakhine in late August.

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In the recent 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila, the Philippines – which held the rotational chairmanship of the 10-member regional bloc for this year – did not mention in its statement the more than half a million Rohingya who have fled the troubled territory in its statement.

The chairman’s statement, however, cited the need for “increased humanitarian access to Myanmar’s Rakhine State.”

The ASEAN leaders “welcomed the commitment by Myanmar authorities to ensure the safety of civilians, take immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine, restore normal socioeconomic conditions and address the refugee problem through verification process.”

They also voiced support for Myanmar’s “efforts to bring peace, stability, rule of law and to promote harmony and reconciliation between the various communities, as well as sustainable and equitable development in Rakhine State.”

United Nations high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in September described the violence committed against the Rohingyas as “ethnic cleansing.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to issue a statement on the matter. Myanmar authorities insist the campaign was aimed at rooting out Rohingya militants who attacked police posts on Aug. 25.

Addressing the UN’s human rights committee, Saudi Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi said the resolution backed a solution that recognizes the “legitimate rights of Muslim citizens” in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s Ambassador Hau Do Suan said his government was “making positive efforts to ease the situation” in Rakhine state, which he said was now “stable.”

Earlier this month, the UN Security Council agreed on a statement calling on Myanmar to “ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine state.”

Britain and France had initially proposed that the council adopted a formal resolution on Myanmar but China opposed such a move.

Human Rights Watch said the vote sent “a strong message to Myanmar that the world will not stand by while its military engages in ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.” – AFP

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