Myanmar: Rohingyas must be part of country's crisis solution, says UN chief

More than 700,000 refugees had fled to Bangladesh in 2017



Photo: AP
Photo: AP

By AP

Published: Thu 25 Aug 2022, 9:48 AM

On Wednesday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Myanmar’s military-installed government to include the ethnic Rohingyas in a solution to the country’s political crisis.

He commented on the eve of the fifth anniversary of (the start of) a mass exodus by the Muslim minority to Bangladesh, in order to escape a military crackdown in the state of Rakhine, northern Myanmar.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that Guterres had noted “the unflagging aspirations for an inclusive future" for the Rohingyas, who face widespread discrimination in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Most are denied citizenship and many others are denied various levels of rights.

The long-simmering conflict with the Rohingyas exploded on August 25, 2017, when Myanmar’s military launched what it called a clearance campaign in Rakhine, in response to attacks on police and border guards by a Rohingya militant group. More than 700,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, as troops allegedly committed mass rapes and killings, and burned thousands of homes.

In January 2020, the International Court of Justice, the UN’s top court, ordered Myanmar to do all it could to prevent genocide against the Rohingyas. Two days earlier, an independent commission set up by Myanmar’s government concluded there were reasons to believe that security forces committed war crimes against the Rohingyas — but not genocide.

In March 2022, the United States pointed out that the oppression of the Rohingyas amounts to genocide, after authorities confirmed accounts of mass atrocities against civilians by Myanmar’s military.

Guterres’ spokesman said that the “perpetrators of all international crimes committed in Myanmar should be held accountable”, adding that “justice for victims will contribute to a sustainable and inclusive political future for the country and its people".

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Earlier this month, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet that about 1 million Rohingya refugees living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh ought to return home to Myanmar.

“The Rohingyas are nationals of Myanmar, and they have to be taken back,” Hasina was quoted as saying by Bachelet's press secretary, Ihsanul Karim.

However, Dujarric admitted there were no immediate prospects for the Rohingya to return, noting that more than 150,000 Rohingyas are still confined in camps in Rakhine.

China brokered a 2017 agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingyas, but Hasina and other Bangladeshi officials have expressed frustration at what they call Myanmar’s inaction in taking them back. The Rohingyas have balked at returning without having their longstanding grievances addressed.

Myanmar’s army ousted the country’s elected government in February 2021, as Aung San Suu Kyi's party was about to begin a second term in office. The military takeover was met with widespread public opposition, which has since turned into armed resistance that some UN experts have characterized as a civil war. Critics of the military have accused it of carrying out widespread human rights abuse.

Following the military takeover, Dujarric noted that “the humanitarian, human rights and security situation in Myanmar has deteriorated".

The secretary-general underlined that "the full and effective participation of the Rohingya people is an inherent part of a Myanmar-led solution to the crisis", he said.

“It is critical that the international community continue to seek comprehensive, durable and inclusive solutions to the crisis," he explained.

Greater access to affected areas for UN humanitarian and development officials and their partners is “crucial", Dujarric added.


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