Locsin says PH should have abstained from vote on draft UN Rohingya resolution

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2017 04:35 PM | Updated as of Nov 18 2017 05:50 PM

Rohingya refugee women and children gather at the Palong Khali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on Thursday. Mohammad Ponir Hossain, Reuters

MANILA (UPDATE) - Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Teddy Boy Locsin Jr. on Saturday said the country should have abstained instead of voting against a United Nations General Assembly committee draft resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar.

Responding to a query by ABS-CBN News, Locsin said in a Twitter post that he would push for Manila's abstention once the resolution goes to the plenary since it is the "right thing" to do. 

He noted that a "yes" vote would "kill" the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), where Myanmar is a member.

"It will be different when it goes to plenary. I will push for abstention. It is the right thing. But a yes is divisive and will kill ASEAN. Sorry but ASEAN does not correct Britain’s mistakes in Burma," Locsin said, calling Myanmar, once a British colony, by its former name.

The Philippines, which recently hosted the biannual ASEAN Summit, was among 10 nations that opposed the draft text which calls for full and unhindered humanitarian aid access and for Myanmar to grant full citizenship rights to Rohingya Muslims, who are treated by Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

A total of 135 countries voted in favor of the resolution while 26 abstained, paving the way for the revival of the text which was dropped last year due to the country's progress on human rights under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Among ASEAN nations, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar voted against the draft, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam were in favor, while Singapore and Thailand abstained. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday explained the Philippines' vote, saying Manila recognizes Myanmar's efforts towards resolving the problem.

"The issue in the Rakhine State is a complex one; and we believe that isolation and censure would only add to the difficulty the people there are now facing. This explains the vote of the Philippines [on] the UN resolution," Roque said in a statement.

"We have expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in the Rakhine State. We are fully aware that it has deep historical roots and we acknowledge Myanmar's efforts towards resolving the issues faced in the Rakhine State," he added.

Once adopted, the resolution is seen to deepen international pressure on Myanmar but has no legal consequence.

Despite calls from rights groups for ASEAN to take a stronger stand on the crisis in Myanmar, Southeast Asian leaders have instead chosen to keep silent over accusations of ethnic cleansing carried out by Myanmar's army.

A statement released after the regional bloc's recent summit in Manila merely said that an unspecified number of leaders backed Myanmar's humanitarian relief program in Rakhine.

"They expressed support to the Myanmar Government in its efforts to bring peace, stability, rule of law and to promote harmony and reconciliation between the various communities," it said. --with a report from Agence France Presse