COLOMBO: India on Thursday abstained from voting on a UN Committee’s resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar in regard to the Rohingya Muslim minority. Among the 26 countries which abstained along with India, were Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Japan.

China and the Russian Federation were among ten countries which voted against the resolution. China and the Russian Federation are against any form of UN international intervention directed by the West in the internal affairs of Myanmar and other developing countries. China and Russia are “crusaders” for the cause of “national sovereignty” with the West using human rights as an instrument to intervene in other countries which do not fall in line with its policies. China and Russia want Myanmar and Bangladesh to settle the refugee issue bilaterally rather than bring in third parties to settle the dispute.

However, the resolution was carried with 135 voting for. Countries which supported the resolution included Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives and Afghanistan.

Bangladesh voted for it obviously because it is bearing the brunt of the Rohingya Muslim refugee problem with 600,000 new entrants since August 25 adding to a backlog 400,000. Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan voted for because they are Islamic countries in sympathy with fellow Muslim Rohingyas persecuted Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.

The Third Committee’s draft resolution, which will be put before the General Assembly in December, called upon Myanmar to end military operations that had "led to the systematic violation and abuse of human rights" of Rohingya Muslims in the country's Rakhine state.

It urged Myanmar to grant access to UN fact finding teams and called for full and unhindered humanitarian aid access to Rakhine State. It also asked Myanmar to grant full citizenship rights to the Rohingyas and urged U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to appoint a Special Envoy to negotiate with Myanmar.

A move to pass a resolution last year, was dropped due to Myanmar’s progress on human rights under its new ruler State Counselor Aun San Suu Kyi. But this year, the situation worsened drastically with the Rohingyas systematically targeted by the military in what the UN described as a “textbook form of ethnic cleansing.”

Myanmar has been refusing entry to a U.N. panel that was tasked with investigating allegations of abuses after a smaller military counteroffensive launched in October 2016.

The Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar has Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia) as Chairman, and Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka) and Christopher Dominic Sidoti (Australia) as members. It visited refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and came out with stinging observations about rape and murder committed by the Myanmar forces

Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie, Hollywood actress and Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Co-Founder of “Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative”, strongly criticized sexual violence against Rohingya women and children. Speaking at a UN conclave in Vancouver she said that” rape has a deeper impact on women than bullets.”

Lt Gen Mahfuzur Rahman , Principal Staff Officer , Armed Forces Division of Bangladesh, in a closed meeting on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse sought Jolie’s support to expose the sexual exploitation of Rohingya women and children in Myanmar. Responding to this, Jolie said she is planning to see the Rohingya victims of sexual violence. She applauded Bangladesh’s generous humanitarian approach towards the refugees.

Earlier in the week, Pramila Patten, the U.N. Special Envoy on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said in Dhaka, that sexual violence against the Rohingyas was "commanded, orchestrated and perpetrated by the Armed Forces of Myanmar."

While the UN Committee US was discussing the Rohingya issue in depth in distant US, the ASEAN Summit held at the same time in the South and South East Asian region almost totally ignored the burning issue in its own backyard.

The Summit avoided passing a resolution to call upon Aung San Suu Kyi and her government to in resolving the Rohingya crisis. Few countries spoke about the issue at the summit.

The only exceptions were Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Trudeau and Guterres warned ASEAN members of the consequences of bypassing the Rohingya issue and reiterated that the humanitarian crisis involving the Rohingyas might cause “regional instability and radicalization”.

Most ASEAN member countries did not exert adequate pressure on the Myanmar leader to take back the Rohingyas. They did not come up with any specific proposal for stopping the genocide being committed by the Myanmar military.

“Even a Code of Conduct similar to that undertaken for the South China Sea could have been visible evidence of ASEAN’s responsiveness in mitigating the severity of the Rohingya crisis. But no code was suggested,” said Dr Mohammed Parvez Imdad, Visiting Professor and Lead Economist based in Manila, Philippines, in an article in Dhaka’s The Daily Star.

Deviating from past practice, Summit totally ignored issues of human rights and civil liberties.

“ASEAN should have noted that Myanmar is sowing the seeds of discord and destabilization, the costs of which would be too much for the region to bear. Additionally, Myanmar's actions will adversely impact regional cooperation frameworks and potentials, both in Southeast Asia and South Asia,” Imdad said.

“Leaders of ASEAN would have done justice to their own agendas for peace and security had the Summit Declaration reflected how Bangladesh has responded to the Rohingya crisis. Bangladesh's response and handling of the crisis is an exemplary gesture of support to distressed individuals and extraordinary diligence in ensuring peace and stability in the region,” Imdad pointed out.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, told reporters in Beijing, that Foreign Minister Wang Yi would go to Bangladesh and Myanmar this weekend to meet his counterparts and “exchange views on bilateral ties and issues of mutual regional concern.”

But Geng did not say whether Wang would discuss the Rohingya issue.

However, China has been trying to get Myanmar and Bangladesh to sit together and thrash out the Rohingya issue bilaterally. As a result of the efforts of a Chinese Special Envoy, Sun Guoxiang, the Interior Ministers of Myanmar and Bangladesh had met once in Dhaka and agreed on a 10-point program including the repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar.

But Bangladesh reneged on the agreement even though it maintained that the bilateral engagement would continue and that the Bangladesh Foreign Minister would visit Myanmar at the end of November.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Minister would attend the Asia- Europe Meeting (AEM) in the Myanmar capital of Naypyitaw, where Western countries, along with Bangladesh, would certainly raise the Rohingya issue both in the general sessions and in bilateral meetings with Myanmar.