I thank you for the opportunity to address the Security Council with regard to the turmoil that has recently befallen Myanmar’s Rakhine State and the ensuing humanitarian situation.
I have listened carefully to the statements made by the distinguished Secretary-General and the representatives of the member states of the Council.
The common thread that runs through the commentaries is the allusion that “something is rotten in the state of Rakhine”. Assertions in the media that a campaign of terror has been unleashed in Northern Rakhine and that unspeakable crimes have been committed against innocent people have only served to heighten the concern of the international community. While such assertions might appear reasonable at first glance to a lay observer, expert observers with knowledge of the history of Myanmar and exposure to the propaganda tactics of terrorists will see such comments for what they really are – malicious and unsubstantiated chatter.
Nevertheless, we understand the concern of the international community and take serious note of it.
I would like to take this opportunity to apprise you of the situation obtaining on the ground and of our efforts to end the violence, assist all innocent civilians affected by the turmoil and plans to find a lasting solution to the daunting challenges we face.
First, we recognize that there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
But we need to recognize that the recent violence was triggered by the attacks carried out by so-called ARSA terrorist group. We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability, development and the return of displaced communities to their homes.
The current situation precipitated by the attacks of the ARSA terrorists on 30 police outposts in the early hours of 25 August resulting in the death of 12 security officers, one immigration officer, one soldiers and a number of innocent civilians. Security forces were obliged to defend themselves.
We feel deeply for the suffering and plight of all affected communities – Rakhine, Muslim, Daingnet, Mro, Thet, Maramagyi and Hindu. They are all victims of violence and terrorism.
Terrorism constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. It has no place in our civilized world. I am sure you will agree with me when I say that we cannot condone terrorism in any form and manifestation.
The government of Myanmar has strongly condemned the acts of terror committed by ARSA in northern Rakhine. The highest Islamic organization in Myanmar, the “All Myanmar Islamic Religious Organization” as well as the “Interfaith Dialogue Group of Myanmar” have expressed their solidarity with the government and issued statements condemning the acts of terror committed by ARSA. They stressed that no religion can condone violence that result in the loss of life and property. They expressed their support for the government’s efforts to address the situation in Rakhine and its endeavors to promote national reconciliation and peace in the entire country.
The government will work to ensure that the fight against terrorism will not distract us from our commitment to bring peace, harmony and development to Rakhine State. It is striving to restore normalcy. There have been no armed clashes and clearance operations since September 5.
Second, I wish to stress that there is no ethnic cleansing and genocide in Myanmar.
Ethnic cleansing and genocide are serious charges and that they should not be used lightly. It would be a sad commentary of our times if we allowed emotions to cloud our view and assert that what is happening in Rakhine is ethnic cleansing without first undertaking a legal review and making a judicial determination. I can assure you that the leaders of Myanmar, who have been struggling so long for freedom and human rights, will never espouse policy of genocide or ethnic cleansing and the government will do everything to prevent it.
As clearly stated by the State Counsellor in her address to the diplomatic corps in Nay Pyi Taw on 19 September, we condemn all human rights violation and violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace, stability and rule of law throughout the state. Security forces have been instructed to adhere strictly to the Code of Conduct in carrying out security operations, to exercise all due restraint, and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians.
Myanmar is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. It is home to 135 officially recognized ethnic groups, each with its own distinctive culture and adherence to a variety of religious, including Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism Religious groups have been living in harmony throughout our history. The situation that we face today is due to terrorism and is not based on religion.
It should be noted that Muslims are not a minority in northern Rakhine. They constiture 95% of the total population. What is little known is that the vast majority of Muslims did not abandon their health and home. While there have been an exodus, more than 50% of the Muslim villages in northern Rakhine remain intact.
Representatives of the diplomatic crops in Yangon, accompanied by the media, will visit northern Rakhine on Monday. They will have the opportunity to witness firsthand the situation on the ground. The Secretary General has also been invited to visit Myanmar. We hope to welcome him in the near future to enhance cooperation between Myanmar and the United Nations.