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UN extends probe of Myanmar violence


The UN decided Friday to extend an investigation into abuses committed in Myanmar, especially in Rakhine state, where violence has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution tabled by the European Union calling for the international fact-finding mission to be given another six months.

Several countries distanced themselves from the resolution, including China, but none demanded a vote in the 47-member council, and the measure was adopted by consensus.

The council set up the mission in March to investigate possible violations across Myanmar, with a particular focus on alleged crimes against Rohingya in Rakhine state.

The Muslim minority is loathed in Myanmar, denied citizenship and are instead branded “Bengalis” — or illegal migrants who do not belong in the Buddhist-majority country.

Half a million Rohingya have crushed into camps in Bangladesh since August 25, fleeing a Myanmar army campaign and communal violence that the UN describes as “ethnic cleansing”.

Earlier this month, the UN fact-finding mission asked for more time, lamenting a lack of access to the country. Friday’s decision gives them until next September to present their final report.

Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly denounced the UN probe as unhelpful and vowed that her government would not cooperate.

But after an outcry, Suu Kyi said earlier this month that her government was open to foreign scrutiny of the situation in Rakhine.

“We hope the government will see the benefit of cooperating,” Estonian ambassador Andre Pung told the council on Friday, speaking on behalf of the EU.

But Myanmar representative Hau Khan Sum said his country vehemently rejected the resolution, saying it continues “to believe that the establishment of a fact-finding mission is not helpful”, and “counter-productive in our efforts to achieve national reconciliation.”

While welcoming the extension of the UN fact-finding mission, activists said that the resolution’s wording had been weakened to help it pass.

An earlier version called “for an end to … violations and abuses” in Myanmar, but the document that passed Friday called only for “and end to the violence.”

“It’s baffling that it decided not to clearly call for an immediate end to grave and serious rights violations,” Iniyan Ilango of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development told AFP.

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