UN rebukes Myanmar over treatment of Muslim minority

Many Rohingya now hope that with the NLD, a Suu Kyi-led government will work to restore their rights.

FILE: A displaced Rohingya Muslim family at the Bawdupha Internally Displaced Persons camp located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Myanmar's western Rakhine state. Picture: AFP.

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations General Assembly's human rights committee on Wednesday criticised Myanmar for its treatment of the nation's Muslim minority and urged the Southeast Asian country to change its citizenship rules to make Rohingya full citizens.

Although many have lived in Myanmar for generations, the Rohingya minority in the country also known as Burma is not one of the 135 ethnic groups recognised under the country's 1982 citizenship law and are thus entitled to only limited rights.

The non-binding draft resolution, co-sponsored by European nations, the United States and other Western states, was adopted by consensus during a meeting of the 193-nation assembly's third committee, which focuses on human rights.

The resolution said the assembly "reiterates its serious concern about the situation of the Rohingya in Rakhine State and of other minorities subject to marginalisation and instances of human rights violations and abuses."

It added that the assembly "calls upon the government of Myanmar to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals, including persons belonging to the Rohingya minority." The resolution said Rohingya should have full citizenship and related rights in Myanmar.

The resolution also welcomed the positive developments in Myanmar, including political and economic reform and democratisation. It called for bringing all institutions, including the military, under a civilian government with a fully elected parliament.

The resolution will be put to another vote at a plenary session of the General Assembly next month.

Myanmar's UN Ambassador U Kyaw Tin told the committee his government opposed resolutions singling out individual countries. He also objected to the use of the term Rohingya, which he said was not an actual ethnic group.

Many Rohingya hope the recent election victory of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar will lead to improvements for them.

Stripped of their right to cast ballots by the current government, many Rohingya now hope that, with the NLD able to rule largely on its own, a Suu Kyi-led government will work to restore their rights.

Hundreds of Rohingya died in clashes between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012. Some 140,000 Rohingya live in squalid camps, while thousands more have fled by boat, leading to a regional migration crisis.

Third Committee resolutions criticizing the human rights situations in Iran, North Korea and Syria will also be put to a vote in the coming days.