UN Must Act to Stop Myanmar Army’s Brutal Campaigns Against Rohingya

October 4th, 2017  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  5 minute read
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As thousands of refugees continue to stream over the border to Bangladesh, Progressive Voice joins 87 other civil society organizations to call for UN member states to take swift and decisive action against those responsible for committing atrocities against innocent people.

The UN Security Council (UNSC), on 28 September, 2017, publicly discussed the human rights situation in Myanmar[1] for the first time in eight years, adding to the four closed meetings it has held since the crisis in Rakhine State took a dramatic turn for the worse on 25 August, 2017. Attacks by the Rohingya militant group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on security outposts have resulted in clearance operations by the Myanmar Army with indiscriminate violence being used, amounting to what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has termed a “textbook definition of ethnic cleansing” in northern Rakhine State. The number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has now reached over half a million people, with people arriving on a daily basis. Some, however, do not make it, including more than 60 who drowned when their boat capsized whilst fleeing the violence. There are also nearly 30,000 ethnic Rakhine and others who have been displaced and are currently residing in central and southern Rakhine State.

The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State was expanded upon in a joint statement by humanitarian aid agencies that described how “almost no humanitarian assistance has been provided to populations in need in northern Rakhine,” due to “the lack of authorizations for humanitarian staff to travel to affected areas, increased tensions affecting national staff and contractors, and an insecure operating environment.”

Addressing the UNSC debate, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, described the situation as “the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.” At the meeting, the US Ambassador for the UN, Nikki Haley, echoing similar calls made by 21 US Senators, demanded that “the Burmese military must respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. Those who have been accused of committing abuses should be removed from command responsibilities immediately and prosecuted for wrongdoing.” She pushed the UNSC for targeted sanctions on perpetrators and called for countries to impose an arms embargo. Yet despite these calls, as well as its moral imperative, the UNSC has not yet adopted a resolution and thus no action has been taken. This is hugely disappointing as the highest level of body within the UN system has real power to stop violence, save people on the ground and hold those who commit crimes against humanity to account.

The UNSC must reconsider their current inaction. Meanwhile, the current UN General Assembly must adopt a resolution that demands the end of the abuses and atrocities, calls for immediate access for aid agencies, and unrestricted access for the UN Fact-Finding Mission into abuses. As the statement by civil society points out, “If governments, UN officials and diplomats simply hold meetings and make speeches as atrocities continue in Myanmar, they bear the risk of failing to use every diplomatic tool at their disposal to stop the ethnic cleansing campaign and further crimes against humanity. In the face of mass destruction, killings and hundreds of thousands displaced, inaction should not be an option.” This is the time for the international community to take responsibility and act. There are options and they must be pursued if there is any chance the violence, abuses, and waves of refugees are to stop before there are no Rohingya left in Rakhine State.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

Myanmar: UN Security Council Must Impose Arms Embargo
By Amnesty International

Regional MPs Praise Malaysia’s Strong Stance on Rohingya Crisis, Call for further ASEAN Action
By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

11,000 Villagers in Five Rohingya Villages Face Dire Food and Aid Shortages Amid Threat of Violence
By Burma Human Rights Network

Thailand: Urge Myanmar to End Attacks on Rohingya Civilians
By Fortify Rights

United Nations: Act Now to End and Remedy Crimes Against Humanity in Myanmar
By Fortify Rights

Joint Statement: UN Member States Should Act to Pressure Myanmar to End Crimes against Humanity
By Global Coalition of 88 Civil Society Organizations

Burma: Military Crimes Against Humanity
By Human Rights Watch

Myanmar: Global Appeal for UN Action
By Human Rights Watch

New Report Warns of Potential Land Conflict Epidemic
By International Federation of Human Rights

က်ယ္ျပန္႔စြာ ျဖစ္ေပၚလာႏုိင္သည္႔ ေျမယာပဋိပကၡမ်ားကုိ အစီရင္ခံစာအသစ္က ၾကိဳတင္သတိေပး
By International Federation of Human Rights

UN Secretary-General’s Remarks at Open Debate of the Security Council on Myanmar
By United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

Myanmar: UN Experts Condemn Ongoing Persecution of Rohingya in Rakhine State
By 7 UN Experts

Statement of INGOs in Myanmar: Humanitarian Organizations Call for Immediate Humanitarian Access to those in Need
By 18 International Humanitarian Organizations in Myanmar



Land of Sorrow: Human Rights Violations at Myanmar’s Myotha Industrial Park
By International Federation of Human Rights

Crimes against Humanity by Burmese Security Forces Against the Rohingya Muslim Population in Northern Rakhine State since August 25, 2017

By Human Rights Watch

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.