10 July 2013
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Organization of Islamic Cooperation

 


The Secretary-General, the United Nations and its Member States must do more to persuade the Government of Myanmar to stem the tide of violence against Muslims in that country, representatives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said at a Headquarters press conference today.


Authorities in the South-east Asian country had so far failed to end what amounted to genocide against Muslims, said Roble Olhaye, OIC Chair and Permanent Representative of Djibouti to the United Nations.  Expressing deep concern over the “intolerable and unacceptable” violence that had left some 130,000 Muslims displaced and living in “pitiful” conditions, he said it was the Myanmar Government’s responsibility to protect its people, no matter their background or religion.


Abdallah Yahya A. Al-Mouallimi, Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia, joined Mr. Olhaye in stressing that the anti-Muslim violence was occurring at a time when Myanmar was enjoying improved diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, and its democratic progress was attracting significant attention.  Despite that progress, however, the Government “cannot be allowed to turn a blind eye to egregious violations of human rights” against one people, Mr. Olhaye emphasized.  He said he had just returned from a meeting with the Secretary-General and his Special Adviser on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, and had asked them to take a more forceful position in calling on the Myanmar Government to shoulder its responsibility for ending the violence.


“ Myanmar is having a honeymoon with the world,” Mr. Al-Mouallimi said, adding, however, that the honeymoon was “being built on the bodies of Muslim victims throughout the country”.  The world could not be swept up by democratic progress in Myanmar if it did not include full rights for Muslims.  The atrocities went beyond the persecuted Rohingya people to affect Muslims throughout the country, he said, adding that “we cannot accept that what is happening represents the great Buddhist people”.  It was incumbent upon the Government of Myanmar to protect Muslims and to ensure their right to work, to live safely and to perform their religious rites.


Echoing the call on the Secretary-General to make his voice heard “more loudly” on the matter, Mr. Al-Mouallimi emphasized:  “We have no intentions of standing on the side and watching this process take place without any action.”  He called upon powerful actors, including the United States, the European Union and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), to exercise their influence and ensure that ethnic cleansing in Myanmar was put to an immediate end.


Asked what more the United Nations system could do to prevent violence in Myanmar, Mr. Olhaye replied that “the United Nations is part and parcel of the international community that is helping in the reform and democratization process” in that country.  As the “conscience of the world”, the Organization must speak out more loudly in exerting pressure on the Government to stop the violence.


“There is a lot more that the Secretary-General and the United Nations can do”, Mr. Al-Mouallimi added, calling, in particular, for efforts to engage personally with the President of Myanmar.


Asked what more the “Group of Friends on Myanmar” could to end the violence, he said there had so far been a failure to reach agreement on a Human Rights Council resolution condemning the atrocities against Myanmar’s Muslims.  Recalling that his country had joined the consensus in 2012, when the General Assembly had voted to recognize democratic developments in Myanmar, he said it had done so on the understanding that sufficient recognition would be given to the plight of Muslims there.  “We are still waiting,” he said.  Indeed, it was not enough to insist on the basic structures of democracy; ending killings and persecution was a far more basic requirement of democracy.


When asked about the type of support that the OIC intended to provide to Muslims in Myanmar, Mr. Al-Mouallimi said it had offered to send a humanitarian team and to provide assistance to the victims, but those offers had been rejected by the Government.  He called on the international community to ensure that such efforts were better received in the future.


Asked specifically about the Security Council’s inaction on the situation, Mr. Olhaye said the OIC’s next stop would be a meeting with Council members that would take place very soon.  “We shall see, face-to-face, what will transpire out of those discussions.”


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For information media • not an official record