YANGON/SHAMLAPUR (Reuters) – Myanmar said yesterday it is negotiating with China and Russia to ensure they block any UN Security Council (UNSC) censure over the violence that has forced an exodus of nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh in less than two weeks.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” on the strife in the northwestern state of Rakhine but, in a statement, she made no mention of the Rohingya who have fled.
She has come under increasing pressure from countries with Muslim populations, including Indonesia, where thousands led by Islamist groups held a rally in Jakarta yesterday, to demand that diplomatic ties with Buddhist-majority Myanmar be cut.
In a rare letter to the UNSC on Tuesday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern that the violence could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”. He warned there was a risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar that could destabilise the region.
Myanmar National Security Adviser Thaung Tun told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that Myanmar was counting on China and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, to block a UN resolution on the crisis.
“We are negotiating with some friendly countries not to take it to the Security Council,” he said.
“China is our friend and we have a similar friendly relationship with Russia so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward.”
Ms Suu Kyi spoke by telephone on Tuesday with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed world leaders to do more to help a population he says is facing genocide. Yesterday he said he would provide 10,000 tonnes of aid to help Rohingya Muslims.
In a statement issued by her office on Facebook, Ms Suu Kyi said the government had “already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible” and warned against misinformation that could mar relations with other countries.
She referred to images on Twitter of killings posted by Turkey’s deputy prime minister that he later deleted because they were not from Myanmar.
“She said that kind of fake information which was inflicted on the deputy prime minister was simply the tip of a huge iceberg of misinformation calculated to create a lot of problems between different countries and with the aim of promoting the interests of the terrorists,” her office said in the statement.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh lodged a protest after it said Myanmar had laid landmines near the border between the two countries, government officials said yesterday.
When asked whether Bangladesh had lodged the complaint, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said “yes” without elaborating. Three other government sources confirmed that a protest note was faxed to Myanmar in the morning saying the Buddhist-majority country was violating international norms.
“Bangladesh has expressed great concern to Myanmar about the explosions very close to the border,” a source with direct knowledge of the matter said. The source asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
A Myanmar military source said landmines were laid along the border in the 1990s to prevent trespassing and the military had since tried to remove them. But none had been planted recently.
Two Bangladeshi sources said they believed Myanmar security forces were putting the landmines in their territory along the barbed-wire fence between a series of border pillars. Both sources said Bangladesh learned about the landmines mainly through photographic evidence and informers.
“Our forces have also seen three to four groups working near the barbed-wire fence, putting something into the ground,” one of the sources said.
“We then confirmed with our informers that they were laying landmines.”
The sources did not clarify if the groups were in uniform, but added that they were sure they were not Rohingya insurgents.
Manzurul Hassan Khan, a Bangladesh border guard officer, said earlier that two blasts were heard on Tuesday on the Myanmar side, after two on Monday fuelled speculation that Myanmar forces had laid landmines.
A Rohingya refugee who went to the site of the blast on Monday – on a footpath near where civilians fleeing violence are huddled in a no man’s land on the border – filmed what appeared to be a mine: a metal disc about 10cm in diameter partially buried in the mud. He said he believed there were two more such devices buried in the ground.
Two refugees also said they saw members of the Myanmar army around the site in the immediate period preceding the Monday blasts, which occurred around 2.25pm.
Reuters was unable to independently verify that the planted devices were landmines and that there was any link to the Myanmar army.
According to the latest estimates issued by UN workers, arrivals in just 12 days stood at 146,000. This brought to 233,000 the total number of Rohingya who have sought refuge in Bangladesh since last October.