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MILF urges PH to change its ‘no’ vote on Rohingya at UN

By: - Correspondent / @inqmindanao
/ 07:00 AM November 26, 2017

DAVAO CITY — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has urged the Philippine government to change its “no” vote on the draft UN resolution calling for full and free access to humanitarian aid for Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

“To our mind, a no vote is too difficult to comprehend, because the issue here is about principle; it is about the inalienable right of people, Muslims or non-Muslims, to be protected by states and the United Nations and member states. And principles are not subject for compromise,” the MILF said in an editorial posted on its official web site, luwaran.com, on Nov. 23.

The Philippines was one of the 10 nations that last week opposed the draft resolution, which also called on Myanmar to grant full citizenship rights to members of the Muslim minority who had fled to nearby Bangladesh to escape abuse.

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More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August to escape a military crackdown, which has been widely criticized as “ethnic cleansing.”

The MILF, which has signed a peace accord with the government, said it would have preferred a “yes vote, but we also look at the difficulties being faced by the Philippines as this year’s chair of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).”

So in lieu of a “yes” vote, the MILF said the Philippines could just abstain in the upcoming UN plenary session.

“We hope and strongly appeal to the Philippine government to change its ‘no’ vote to  ‘abstain,’” the rebel group said.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano earlier this week said that being this year’s chair of the Asean precluded the Philippines from supporting the resolution, which had “very tough” words against Myanmar, a fellow Asean member.

“The situation on the ground is, by voting no or by abstaining, our humanitarian people can come in,” Cayetano told ANC television, adding that Manila had to consider the safety of aid workers.

“If we weren’t chair of Asean, probably ‘abstain’ would be a consideration. Or if we’re not in Asean at all, ‘yes’ would be considered,” he said.

The Philippines, along with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, rejected the UN draft resolution but 135 other countries, including the predominantly Muslim Asean members—Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia—voted to support it.

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The incoming Asean chair, Singapore, and Thailand abstained.

The MILF said the “responsibility to protect” principle was the overriding issue in its call for a change in the government’s vote.

“It refers to the obligation of states toward their populations and toward all populations at risk of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes,” it said.

“If the Philippines had only abstained from voting, it is very understandable. It neither condones the persecutions nor condemns the same. At least, the vote can still be defended, although it is a weak decision, if not a flawed one,” the MILF added.

The MILF said the “no” vote could have only been decided “at the level of the Department of Foreign Affairs” and was “made in haste.”

“Even the Philippines’ permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr., seems not aware of this decision. We also doubt deeply whether the decision has been cleared with the President before it was cast,” it added.

The Philippine UN mission is still deliberating a suggestion by Locsin to change the vote from “no” to “abstain,” according to Cayetano.

In a Twitter post last Saturday, Locsin said, he “will push for abstention” when the resolution goes to the plenary.

“It is the right thing,” Locsin said.

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TAGS: DFA, Humanitarian Aid, MILF, Rohingya Muslims, Teodoro Locsin Jr., United Nations
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