The UN Security Council held its first open meeting on Myanmar in eight years on Thursday and urged the country to immediately halt its military operation against Rohingya Muslims.
Apart from ending military operations, Myanmar authorities must provide humanitarian access to the UN and relief agencies and ensure a safe passage for refugees to return, the Council said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The international community must take action against Myanmar if it fails to respond to these demands, the Council said.
“We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be: a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority,” Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, was quoted as saying.
Haley said the US had engaged at the highest level with military and government officials in Myanmar and it is now time for the international community to take action.
She called on countries to suspend arms sales to Myanmar’s military.
China and Russia, both veto-holding members of the council, called for the international community to be “objective” and not impose excessive pressure on the government of Myanmar.
The Security Council didn’t issue a statement on Thursday but the debate was seen as a step up to respond to the pressure to do something as the number of victims and refugees increases daily, the Journal noted.
The UN estimates that Myanmar’s violent crackdown against civilians in Rakhine state has killed and injured thousands of civilians, including women and children, destroyed entire villages and displaced nearly a million people who fled to neighboring Bangladesh.
Myanmar’s national security adviser, Thaung Tun, told the Council that his government had inherited a complex situation in Rakhine state and denied allegations of ethnic cleansing.
“There is no ethnic cleansing and genocide in Myanmar. They are serious charges and should not be used lightly,” said Tun.
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