UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy in Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener has said accountability is essential for combating impunity and genuine reconciliation in Myanmar.Myanmar’s Independent Commission of Enquiry has responded positively to her recommendation that it engages with United Nations human rights entities.
Fragility, tensions and violence in Myanmar — including, but not limited to, the recent crisis in Rakhine State — risk jeopardizing important strides made in that country’s peace process, the top UN official in Myanmar warned the Security Council recently urging the 15-member organ to continue to lend support.
“While Bangladesh and host communities have been very generous, we cannot expect this to continue indefinitely,” she said referring to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas who fled across the border from Myanmar 18 months ago.
While Rohingyas continue to live in extremely challenging conditions with few signs of hope, she added that military and civilian tensions persist in Myanmar ahead of general elections in 2020, according to UN.
Calling for an end to violence, unfettered humanitarian access, efforts to tackle the root causes of tensions and inclusive sustainable development, she emphasized that the recently launched United Nations Joint Response Plan for 2019 — aimed at supporting both refugees and host communities — requires urgent funding.
As Council members took the floor, some stressed that insufficient action has been taken by the government of Myanmar to improve the situation in Rakhine State — thereby allowing for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees.
Several called for the prompt and full implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, known as the Annan Report, and the memorandum of understanding agreed between the government and several United Nations entities.
Meanwhile, others warned that, if justice is not delivered to victims of serious crimes, the Council has the power to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said while Bangladesh appreciates the UN Security Council’s willingness to resolve the protracted crisis, it is frustrated that no concrete action has been taken to ensure the Rohingya’s safe return.
The problem in Myanmar is the result of decades-long State practices of deprivation, disenfranchisement and atrocities, he said, adding that “not a single Rohingya has volunteered to return to Rakhine due to the absence of a conducive environment there”.
Indeed, the situation has gone from bad to worse, with the military engaging in heavy fighting.
In the short-term, Myanmar can work to address accountability issues, while ensuring the full implementation of the UNDP‑UNCHR memorandum and the Annan Commission recommendations.
Myanmar’s representative said his government has been implementing most of the recommendations in the Annan Commission report, having identified five priority areas covering issues of citizenship, freedom of movement, closure of camps for internally displaced persons, education and health.
The most urgent task is to begin the repatriation process as soon as possible, he said, recalling that the government recently proposed to Bangladesh to resume a Joint Working Group meeting in April.
Rejecting both the Human Rights Council’s independent investigative mechanism and the United Nations fact-finding mission, he said the latter’s report was “biased and one-sided”, as well as politically motivated.
Meanwhile, he stressed, the issues in Rakhine are based not in religious persecution — as portrayed by the massive media campaign launched against his country — but in political and economic challenges.
The representative of the Dominican Republic was among those speakers who voiced grave concern that few signs of a clear, lasting solution to allow the return of Rohingya refugees have been seen to date.
Noting that tensions in Myanmar are increasing, discrimination continues and security on the ground remains thin, he declared: “This is a disastrous situation on both sides of the border.”
Condemning the serious violations of human rights and horrendous crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya, he said the time has come for the Council to move past its paralysis on the issue and act to prevent further atrocities.
The United Kingdom’s delegate agreed that the situation requires the Council’s attention.
Expressing concern about the loss of life and the current conditions, she said the Myanmar armed forces are the problem and voiced her country’s support for the people.
Her delegation is not dogmatic about who helps the refugees, but simply wants to see action, she stressed, noting that evidence of freedom of movement and a granting of access to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would be good starting points.
China’s representative, striking a different tone, said progress has been made, including commitments to close internally displaced persons camps and implement UNDP-UNHCR projects.
Describing the issue of Rakhine State as a legacy matter, he said the root causes must be identified and addressed.
For its part, China has set out an approach to end violence and promote repatriation, and is providing humanitarian assistance, including housing and food, to those in need.
Also speaking were representatives of Kuwait, Indonesia, France, Belgium, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Germany, Peru, United States, Russian Federation and Equatorial Guinea.