Tensions Flare Up on the Rakhine

GLOBAL TIMES – The members of the Security Council were divided on how to deal with the situation in the Rakhine state. There was a universal belief that the plight of the Rohingya did require the attention of the international community, however the Council was unable to come to a consensus in terms of policy.

With regards to Myanmar’s ban of citizenship to the Rohingya, the Russian Federation strongly stated that “no state has the right to tell another state to whom they make citizens,” further stating, “not every person in a country should become a citizen… even for refugees.” In a surprising move, the US seemed to support the Russian position with regards to state sovereignty, stating that intervention was inappropriate for the situation in the Rakhine. Although the US acknowledged that “there was violence on both sides,” it stressed that the international community should do more for the Rohingya refugees.

Several Council members have denounced the Myanmar government for their perceived inaction on the crisis. France acknowledged that “genocide-like acts” have potentially occurred in the Rakhine state, however stopped short of confirming the status of genocide. The United Kingdom had choice words against certain members who likened infringements of sovereignty as “acts of imperialism,” stating that the UK will uphold the human rights of all peoples in all states. In a similar fashion, Saudi Arabia lambasted the Myanmar government for their refusal of citizenship for the Muslim minority and called for international pressure to enact domestic change.

However, when asked whether the situation of Myanmar would justify a military intervention under the controversial ‘responsibility to protect,’ all delegates quickly reiterated that such an action would be off the table. Several members, including China, held the belief that a diplomatic solution was still possible.

In a controversial move, France, Japan, the UK, and the US stated that “potential sanctions” could be imposed on specific Myanmar governmental officials. Whether these “potential sanctions” would include State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was not confirmed by the delegates. This proposal however, was vehemently opposed by China and Russia, who believed that sanctions would cause further destability in an already vulnerable region.

In line with other members, China urged calm when considering economic penalties against the government of Myanmar. Rather, China maintained that cooperation with the Myanmar government should be upheld when approaching the crisis. China also hazarded against those who wish to infringe on the sovereignty of another UN member state. Other delegates have agreed with the Chinese position, arguing that regional participation, specifically with neighbouring Bangladesh, is needed to ensure the safety and security of incoming migrants.

It should be noted that Myanmar’s delegation was largely absent from the Council’s discussions on the situation in the Rakhine. If the members of the Security Council wish to come to a meaningful solution for the Rohingya people, participation of regional partners including Myanmar, should be taken into account.