UN Security Council urges Myanmar to create conditions for safe return of Rohingya from Bangladesh

The UN Security Council has urged Myanmar's government to step up efforts to create conditions that will allow Rohingya Muslims who fled a violent crackdown to safely return to the country from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Press Trust of India July 24, 2018 08:03:40 IST
UN Security Council urges Myanmar to create conditions for safe return of Rohingya from Bangladesh

United Nations: The UN Security Council has urged Myanmar's government to step up efforts to create conditions that will allow Rohingya Muslims who fled a violent crackdown to safely return to the country from neighbouring Bangladesh. The council stressed in a statement following closed briefings on Monday that progress is also needed by Myanmar on implementing agreements on relations with the UN refugee and development agencies and with Bangladesh on returning Rohingya.

Rohingya face official and social discrimination in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, which denies most of them citizenship and basic rights because they are looked on as immigrants from Bangladesh, even though the families of many settled in Myanmar generations ago.  Dire conditions led more than 2,00,000 to flee the country between 2012 and 2015. The latest crisis began with attacks by Rohingya insurgents on Myanmar security personnel last August.

UN Security Council urges Myanmar to create conditions for safe return of Rohingya from Bangladesh

File image of Rohingya refugees. Reuters

The military responded with counterinsurgency sweeps and was accused of widespread human rights violations, including rape, murder, torture and the burning of Rohingya homes. Thousands are believed to have died and about 7,00,000 fled to Bangladesh. The UN and US officials have called the government's military campaign for ethnic cleansing. Security Council members again stressed "the importance of undertaking transparent and independent investigations in allegations of human rights abuses and violations."

The new UN special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, said Myanmar's leaders want to bring Rohingya back to Rakhine state, but there are not only divisions between the government and Rohingya, but divisions between that Muslim minority and the rest of Rakhine's mostly Buddhist population. The council "stressed the need to step up efforts, including through providing assistance to the social and economic development, in order to create conditions conducive to the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingya refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes in Rakhine state."

Burgener, who started the job two months ago, said she has travelled widely, met government officials including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi three times and has gotten approval to open a small office in Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw. She said she plans to return to Myanmar in September. "I need dialogue, and for that I need open doors," she said, including to discuss "critical questions" and advise the government on "how they can also change the attitude of the communities on the ground."

Several Security Council members have called for the UN's most powerful body to impose sanctions to pressure the government on the Rohingya issue, but China, a close ally of Myanmar and a veto-wielding council member, is highly unlikely to ever agree.

Burgener told reporters, "I think Myanmar is not a country which is reacting quite on pressure, but it's up to the Security Council." Sweden's UN ambassador, Olof Skoog, the current council president, stressed the importance of council unity, though he said his country thinks progress has been "far too slow."  "I think there is a recognition among Security Council members that there have been positive steps taken lately. It's also fair to say that many of those steps are far from sufficient," Skoog said. "As long as the council is unified in terms of engagement, but also on putting pressure, I think we are making progress slowly."

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