The government is worried that the United Nations will invoke the Responsibility to Protect, or R2P, to interfere in the Rakhine State crisis, according to national security advisor U Thaung Tun.
U Thaung Tun made his comments during a roundtable talk on state-owned MRTV on Sunday, saying that Myanmar and Bangladesh would do their best to solve the Rohingya problem as the Myanmar government was worried the UN would intervene, citing R2P.
The UN has listed Myanmar as a code red country, meaning it is experiencing a crisis. “They have listed us as a red color country. It is very dangerous for our country,” U Thaung Tun said.
Under the R2P framework, there are three levels. The first is yellow, which indicates that conditions are present to cause worry, the next is orange, which is triggered by the first signs of genocide in the country, followed by red, which indicates a crisis.
The UN used R2P to take action in other regions including Yugoslavia, Libya, Rwanda and Darfur.
“For us, we cannot leave this problem. We need to solve it the best way. We need to repatriate them back to our country. When we do the reparation, we need to bring them back based on their wishes, not force them,” U Thaung Tun said.
China and Russia would stand by Myanmar, he said, although it was because they have their own national interests for doing so as they have repeatedly sided with Myanmar in the past.
Myanmar came under intense international pressure in 1988 following the violent suppression of a popular uprising by the military that resulted in the death of many rights activists and students. Again in 1990, the government was placed under a lot of pressure by the international community after the military refused to respect the result of a general election.
“The international pressure did not hurt our sovereignty at that time. But, it could this time, as well as the stability of the country,” U Thaung Tun said.
David Mathieson, an Independent analyst working on conflict and peace issues in Myanmar, said the military is “driving the efforts at international justice because of their culture of denial of any wrongdoing.”
“If they actually took steps to address the reports of widespread human rights violations and conducted credible investigations and punished alleged perpetrators then these calls would not be as loud and instant as they are,” he said.
“And the government’s utter disdain for anyone making allegations of human rights abuses that have driven so many people into Bangladesh is actively supporting the military, not committing to a credible process that permits real investigations.”
At the same time, Mathieson said that Myanmar needed to understand the limitations of international efforts at seeking accountability and the limited reach of R2P. Those cases were not always successful, and especially in the case of Darfur, not always based on an accurate assessment of the conflict.
But Myanmar should also understand that using China and Russia as shields to deflect international accountability had consequences that could deeply damage the country’s transition to democracy. It is important not just to view how R2P could intrude on Myanmar, but how closer links with China, which believes it is owed concessions for the diplomatic cover it has provided Myanmar, could impact the country in the long term.
What U Thaung Tun should be assessing, said Mathieson, is the potential range of international investigations that could be conducted, not just R2P, but the UN fact-finding mission and what the U.S. has signaled will be its own investigation. This is the closest that Myanmar has come to a major international human rights investigation since the ILO commission of inquiry in the 1990s, he noted.
There are 57 Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries that are members of the UN, and a further 28 from the European Union. The OIC proposed a resolution at the UN General Assembly meeting that action be taken against Myanmar since the violence broke out in the middle of August. Many Western countries support the OIC resolution.
The UN chief has even said the situation in Myanmar had reached a crisis point. The UN has demanded that Myanmar take four steps including halting its military activities in the area, offering humanitarian aide to refugees who remain on the ground, repatriating refugees who have fled the state, and fulfilling the recommendations of the Advisory Commission chaired by Kofi Annan.
The UN Security Council issued a statement on Nov. 6, condemning rights abuses by the Myanmar Army, but the government has called the accusations baseless. The UN has even said it would take action against Myanmar in the event it needed to.