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Palace defends PH opposition against UN’s Rohingya draft


By Argyll Cyrus Geducos 

Malacañang defended the Philippines’ opposition against United Nations (UN) draft which seeks to resolve the crisis in the Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, saying joining the condemnation would only make things worse.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque (PCO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The Palace came up with the defense after it was learned that the Philippines was among the 10 nations that opposed the draft text which calls for full and unhindered humanitarian aid access and for Myanmar to grant full citizenship rights to Rohingya Muslims.

According to Presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, the situation in the Northern Rakhine State is so complex that voting in favor of the draft text would only add more fuel to the fire.

“The issue in the Rakhine State is a complex one; and we believe that isolation and censure would only add to the difficulty the people there are now facing,” Roque said in a statement Saturday evening.

“This explains the vote of the Philippines in the UN resolution,” he added.

It was reported that around 600,000 Rohingya Muslims, who are treated by Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, have fled the country trying to escape the violent military crackdown wherein soldiers set fire to homes and shot civilians as they tried to escape.

Roque said the Philippines has already expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in the Rakhine State.

“We are fully aware that it has deep historical roots and we acknowledge Myanmar’s efforts towards resolving the issues faced in the Rakhine State,” he said.

Roque cited Myanmar’s efforts which included the setting up of an Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former UN Secretary-General Dr. Kofi Annan, and the establishment of a ministerial-level committee to ensure that the recommendations of the Commission are implemented expeditiously.

Roque also said that the plight of the Rohingya Muslims was also discussed during the recently concluded 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) where Myanmar, one of the 10 member-states, was represented by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.

“ASEAN Leaders have been briefed about these efforts during the recently concluded 31st ASEAN Summit, and ASEAN is committed to assist Myanmar in implementing the Advisory Commission’s recommendations,” he noted.

The 31st ASEAN Summit was hounded by allegations from local and international groups, saying it skirted the human rights violations in Myanmar.

President Duterte earlier hit Suu Kyi for her failure to address the Rohingya crisis as he defended his drug war from human rights advocates, saying there worse abuses happening in the world.

“Tignan mo ngayon sa Burma [Myanmar’s former name] (Look at Burma). She [Aung San Suu Kyi] is a Nobel Prize winner. Tingnan mo (Look at) the Rohingyas. They are being brutalized,” Duterte said in a speech in a business conference in Cagayan de Oro on September 9, 2017.

A total of 135 countries voted in favor of the UN resolution addressing the crisis, while 26 abstained.

The resolution, which deepens international pressure but has no legal consequences, urges UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy on Myanmar.

However, Myanmar is refusing entry to a UN panel that was tasked with investigating allegations of abuses.

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