The United Nations approved a resolution on March 24 authorizing a fact-finding mission into human rights violations in Burma. The resolution is the most serious intervention thus far in Rakhine State, where the majority of the 1.2 million Rohingya Muslim population resides.
The resolution, adopted by consensus, addresses a wide range of human rights concerns.
For one thing, it urges the Burmese government to continue its efforts to eliminate statelessness and institutionalized discrimination against members of ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya minority. It also calls upon the government to amend or repeal all discriminatory legislation and policies, and takes measures to ensure a safe return of all internally displaced people and refugees.
In light of the severe human rights crisis faced by Rohingya displaced in Rakhine, the resolution marks a major step toward securing fundamental rights, such as citizenship and freedom of movement.
Human Rights Watch estimates that nearly 1 million internally displaced Rohingya are currently living in squalid, prison-like conditions in camps within Sittwe, the second poorest state in Burma, where their movements are restricted and the access to livelihoods is limited.
The resolution also authorized the president of the UN Human Rights Council to dispatch an independent, international fact-finding mission. The investigation will examine allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and destruction of property by Burmese security forces to ensure “full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.”
The resolution was introduced after UN Special Rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, called for a “prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial” international investigation into the crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya Muslims.
Researchers at The Heritage Foundation have repeatedly called on Burma to recognize Rohingya as citizens.
“The U.S. should encourage Burma to recognize Rohingya and other displaced minorities as citizens”, urged the report. “…If Burma seeks to improve its record on human rights and religious liberty, it should guarantee that minority populations enjoy the same legal protections as all other citizens of Burma.”
In spite of Burma’s recent turn toward reform, it goes without saying that there is still a long road ahead.
To this point, the Burmese government failed dismally to act on recommendations to seek UN assistance for an investigation into violence against Rohingya, let alone carry out a credible investigation of its own.
The result is clear: the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State is worsening each day. For all the pressure the resolution is bound to put on Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, further attention and action is crucial to ensure tangible changes are made.
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