Myanmar’s leaders are worried the UN will invoke the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in order to intervene in the Rakhine State crisis, said national security advisor Thaung Tun during a televised roundtable discussion on Sunday.
R2P is defined by paragraphs 138 and 139 of the Outcome Document of the 2005 UN World Summit. These passages allow countries to take collective diplomatic action through the Security Council to protect the populations of other countries from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, as well as their incitement.
Military intervention is understood to be a last resort in preventing these crimes.
Myanmar military operations in Rakhine State have sent more than 620,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh since August. The Myanmar government has repeatedly insisted that the crisis must be solved on a bilateral basis with Bangladesh and has relied on China to block efforts to internationalize the crisis.
However, Thaung Tun, who was recently chosen for a newly created cabinet post, said the danger of UN intervention is rising.
“They have listed us as a red color country. It is very dangerous for our country,” he said, referring to a crisis level advisory system that is not included in the official R2P language. (The Irrawaddy has posited that yellow indicates that conditions are present to cause worry; orange indicates the first signs of genocide; while red indicates a crisis.)
“We cannot leave this problem. We need to solve it the best way. We need to repatriate [the refugees] back to our country, but we need to bring them back based on their own wishes and not force them,” Thaung Tun said.
Pressure from the UN has been mounting as Myanmar’s leaders have refused to acknowledge military abuses and have blocked any thorough investigation of numerous allegations.
On November 6, the Security Council issued its first presidential statement against Myanmar in a decade, calling for an end to military violence in Rakhine State and expressing “grave concern” over allegations of atrocities.
UN Secretary General António Guterres is expected to report back to the Security Council on Myanmar’s progress in early December. If the violence and denial continue, the next move by the Security Council could include punitive measures, such as sanctions.
Thaung Tun said during the discussion that international pressure poses a greater threat to Myanmar today than it did following the military crackdown on the pro-democracy uprising in 1988 or following the military’s refusal to honor the 1990 election results.
“International pressure did not hurt our sovereignty at that time, but it could this time, as well as the stability of the country.”