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UNGA adopts resolution asking Myanmar to ensure safe, sustainable Rohingya return

  • Published at 01:36 pm November 15th, 2019
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File photo: Rohingya refugees attend a ceremony organised to remember the second anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on August 25, 2019 AFP

The draft resolution was passed in UNGA Third Committee by 140 in favour, 9 against including China and 32 abstentions

The Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a draft resolution, asking Myanmar to demonstrate genuine political goodwill to ensure the safe and sustainable return of the Rohingyas.

The resolution titled “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” introduced by Saudi Arabia and jointly sponsored by Islamic Cooperation and the European Union, was passed on Thursday (EST).

The draft called on the government of Myanmar to review the 1982 Citizenship Law, which led to the denial of rights to minorities, especially the Rohingyas.   

It also called upon the independent investigative mechanism for Myanmar to accelerate its operations, uncover rights violations, establish independent conclusions in an objective manner, encourage accountability, and present a documented report on the rights of Rohingya Muslims.

The Third Committee of the UNGA that deals with human rights abuses, approved the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 140 in favour, 9 against and 32 abstentions.

Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Philippines, Russian Federation, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe voted against the draft resolution.

The draft will now go to the full session of the UNGA where it will be voted again, if needed, before the finalization of the resolution. Usually, the results remain more or less the same in the UNGA full session.   

This is for the third year in a row that the Third Committee has adopted a resolution urging Myanmar to take necessary measures to ensure repatriation, but no visible progress has been seen so far.

Introducing the resolution, Saudi Arabia, cited difficulties because some countries refused the very principle of co-existence, and that the international community is currently observing practices by Myanmar’s authorities in the displacement and torture of Muslim minorities in that country.

These violations persist and the draft resolution has attempted to be objective and balanced, advocated positive steps, and stressed the need for a decisive solution to the tragedy of Rohingya Muslims.

During the deliberations after the vote, those voting for the draft voiced concerns over the atrocities orchestrated against the Rohingyas and called for bringing the perpetrators to justice.

On the other hand, the countries that voted against the resolution explained their position.

Most of the countries that chose not to vote said they are against anything country-specific.

The representative of China said divergences should be addressed through dialogue and cooperation.   China opposes the politicization of human rights issues, including through country-specific human rights resolutions, and as such voted against the resolution.

The representative of Bangladesh said the draft resolution is a symbol of the international community’s “custodianship” in helping to facilitate the safe, voluntary repatriation of Rohingyas to their place of abode in Rakhine through a bilateral process.

While talking about issues of justice and accountability, the Bangladeshi representative said the draft outlines actions to address crimes committed by the Myanmar security and armed forces against Rohingyas.

The representative of Myanmar said the draft resolution “grossly mischaracterized” the complex issue of Rakhine State, with the title itself a clear testimony to the true intent and biased attitude of its co-sponsors.

Bangladesh has been hosting 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox's Bazar since a crackdown began on the ethic Muslim minority in Rakhine state by the Myanmar military on August 25, 2017, prompting over 700,000 to flee to Bangladesh in order to escape what the UN termed "ethnic cleansing."