Security Council Proposals for Peace Become Contested

1600px-Kutupalong_Refugee_Camp_(John_Owens-VOA)GLOBAL TIMES – The members of the Security Council have reached consensus on how to deal with the Rakhine issue. Calls for a UN-led fact finding mission have been proposed, receiving partial support from the P5 members of the Council. However, the merits of a fact finding mission were questioned on its relevance. Egypt reminded the Council of a similar report by the ‘Advisory Commission on Rakhine State,’ chaired by former Secretary General Kofi Annan, which was published in August of 2017. This sentiment was also noted by the Council President, Kazakhstan.

China along with other members of the Council have welcomed mission, stating the need for up-to-date information on the changing situation in the Rakhine.

While major powers continue to discuss the details of a UN-led fact finding mission, the issue of the Rohingya themselves has largely been ignored. Uruguay urged that the Rohingya are victims of systematic discrimination, citing frequent attacks on mosques and harassment by the Buddhist majority as evidence. The Saudi delegation concurred, calling for the Security Council to consider the crisis from a human security perspective. When pressed further on potential solutions, Saudi Arabia called for more resources to be allocated to refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh. This is in response to the economic burden placed on Bangladesh, who has received almost 1 million refugees since 25th of August.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang in 19th of November, proposed the creation of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor. This proposal would see greater Chinese investment in vulnerable regions in Myanmar, including the Rakhine. In his speech, Minister Wang stressed that the long term solutions in the Rakhine need to involve initiatives to promote economic growth in the region. This was echoed by the Chinese delegation which affirmed the need for economic development in the Rakhine as a means to promote stability and peace.

In a further move for peace, the Council began entertaining the future of peace negotiations between the Rohingya and the government of Myanmar. The Council agreed that regional partners such as Bangladesh, are required to secure long term peace. However, Council discussions grew divisive on the topic of NGO participation in future peace talks.

The US proposed that NGOs should take a leading role in negotiations between the parties. This move was supported by France who stressed the need for local participation. However, several Council members were hesitant to include NGOs in potential negotiations between the parties, citing concerns of partiality. The Russian Federation stressed that negotiations should include the voluntary involvement of Myanmar, reaffirming the sovereign right of Myanmar in its domestic affairs. Several Council members argued that the US’s proposal would compromise talks, citing NGO biases towards the Rohingya. Other Council members were concerned with the inclusion of international lawyers, considering it as a preemptive legal charge in a contested conflict.  

Some Council members have suggested creative proposals to encourage Myanmar’s participation in potential talks. Japan announced that if Myanmar were to agree to talks, it would consider forgiving Myanmar’s foreign loan debt as compensation. Ukraine however took a more pointed approach, announcing that it would potentially withdraw military contracts in Myanmar if violence persists.

While discussions resume, the noted absence of Myanmar puts the effectiveness of Security Council-led solutions into question. Several members including France, Saudi Arabia, and the UK have called the actions in the Rakhine as ‘ethnic cleansing.’ Myanmar refutes such claims, with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi calling the violence as acts of ‘local terrorism.’ As the Security Council attempts to extend the olive branch of peace, the exclusion of Myanmar leaves room for doubt on the potential for long-term peace.