YANGON/SHAMLAPUR, Bangladesh, Sept 6, (Agencies): Myanmar said on Wednesday it is negotiating with China and Russia to ensure they block any UN Security Council censure over the violence that has forced an exodus of nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh in less than two weeks. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” on the strife in the northwestern state of Rakhine but, in a statement, she made no mention of the Rohingya who have fl ed. She has come under increasing pressure from countries with Muslim populations, including Indonesia, where thousands led by Islamist groups held a rally in Jakarta on Wednesday, to demand that diplomatic ties with Buddhist- majority Myanmar be cut.
In a rare letter to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern that the violence could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”. He warned there was a risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar that could destabilise the region.
Myanmar National Security Adviser Thaung Tun told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that Myanmar was counting on China and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, to block a UN resolution on the crisis. “We are negotiating with some friendly countries not to take it to the Security Council,” he said. “China is our friend and we have a similar friendly relationship with Russia so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that India shared Myanmar’s concern about “extremist violence” in its Rakhine state, where a security force operation against Muslim rebels has sent about 125,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh. Modi spoke after talks with Suu Kyi during a visit aimed at expanding commercial ties as part of an “Act East” policy, and pushing back against Chinese influence.
Suu Kyi told a joint news conference at the presidential palace in the capital, Naypyitaw, that Myanmar was grateful for India’s stance on the attack on her country and they could work together to face the challenge. “We would like to thank India particularly for its strong that it has taken with regard to terrorist threat that came to our country a couple of weeks ago,” she said in brief remarks. “We believe that together we can work to make sure that terrorism is not allowed to take root on our soil.”
Modi said India and Myanmar had similar security interests in the region. “We share your concerns about extremist violence in Rakhine state and specially the violence against security forces and how innocent lives have been affected,” he said.
In related news, the Arab League strongly condemned Wednesday the escalating violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The Arab League Secretary General Ahmad Abul-Gheit said in a statement that Myanmar’s government should shoulder its responsibilities for such crimes, calling the international community to protect freedom of religion and the rights of minorities. He referred to reports, including that of the United Nations, which raised concerns of Arab and Muslim people. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled into neighboring countries since Aug 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base. The ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive have killed at least 400 people.
Indonesian Muslims protested outside the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta on Wednesday demanding an end to violence against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. Thousands of demonstrators, many in white Islamic robes and skullcaps, walked through the capital’s streets to converge outside the embassy in downtown Jakarta.
Persecution of the Rohingya, reviled as illegal immigrants and mostly denied citizenship in Myanmar, has been a lightning rod for anger in Indonesia and across the Muslim world. Protesters shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) and holding banners that read “Stop killing Muslim Rohingyas” gathered to condemn the worsening humanitarian situation in Rakhine state.
Meanwhile, at least five children drowned when boats carrying Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar sank early on Wednesday, Bangladesh border guards told AFP. Authorities said three to four boats had sunk at the mouth of the Naf river, which divides Bangladesh and Myanmar’s violence-wracked Rakhine state, raising fears there could be many more casualties.