The Philippines has opposed a resolution of the United Nations’ human rights body condemning and seeking an end to human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar.
Only the Philippines and China voted against the resolution during the UN Human Rights Council’s 42nd regular session on Thursday. Thirty-seven states voted to adopt it, while seven abstained.
The six-page resolution “expresses grave concern at continuing reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar.”
Reports include arbitrary arrests, torture and other forms of degrading treatment or pubishment, forced labor, use of school buildings by the military, violence against women and children, violations of the rights to freedom of religion, expression, and assembly, and the forced displacement of Rohingya Muslims.
The Rohingya is a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Around a million of them have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh to escape alleged military atrocities since August 2017, an exodus which the UN has called the “world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.”
The UN resolution urged the Myanmar government to allow the “voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable” return of the Rohingya. It said policies, directives and practices that marginalize the country’s minorities should be reversed and abandoned.
It also called for urgent criminal investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, adding that the Myanmar government should put an end to all violence and protect the rights of all people, including the Rohingya and other minority groups.
It said “international, independent, fair and transparent investigations” are needed, calling on Myanmar to cooperate with the UN experts’ monitoring of the country’s situation. It expressed “deep concern” that the international community’s access to the northern Rakhine State remains “severely restricted.”
Myanmar’s military has repeatedly denied claims it was deliberately attacking the Rohingya civilians, insisting instead that it was combating a terrorist insurgency in the province.
Third ‘no’ vote
This is the third time that the Duterte government rejected a UN measure on the supposed ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.
In 2017, as droves of Rohingya people fled Myanmar to escape alleged abuses, the Philippines was among 10 states that voted “no” to the resolution calling on the government to finally grant this minority Muslim group citizenship rights. The UN also called for the Rohingya’s unhindered access to humanitarian aid.
A year after, the Philippines joined four other countries in opposing the call for the displaced minorities’ safe return to their homes.
Philippine government officials, in defending these votes, have said the issues in Myanmar are “complex” and even “politicized.”
In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte himself called the Rohingya crisis a “genocide” and offered the refugees a home in the country. Early this year, he even offered Filipino citizenship to the refugees.
The Philippines is also facing a comprehensive review into the drug war killings and alleged human rights abuses in the country, as approved by the UNHRC in a resolution in July.