UN Security Council Delegates Visit Bangladesh, Myanmar to "Speed Up" Repatriation of Rohingya

By Muktadir Rashid   30 April 2018

DHAKA — A UN Security Council delegation visiting Bangladesh conceded on Monday that progress toward solving the Rohingya refugee crisis has been slow but denied that there was any resistance from China or Russia.

The delegation had met with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina earlier in the day. Three members of the team joined a brief press conference at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport moments before flying to Myanmar for the second leg of the trip.

“We have been concerned that things are going slow. That’s the reasons that the Security Council is here. Also, the [UN} secretary general…has appointed a special envoy [on Myanmar], so things are happening. We are trying to contribute toward these things,” said Gustavo Adolfo Meza Cuadra Velasqez, Peru’s ambassador to the UN and the current chair of the Security Council.

Asked whether the support China and Russia have shown for the Myanmar military’s clearance operations would affect the Security Council’s work, Kuwait’s permanent representative to the UN, Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi, said both countries were keen on finding a solution.

“I do not see any resistance from China and Russia. They are a member of the Security Council and they are with us,” he said. “They want to see a solution for this problem.”

When asked what actions could be taken against Myanmar for its widely alleged and reported abuses of the Rohingya community, the UK’s permanent representative to the UN, Karen Pierce, said authorities in Myanmar had begun their own investigation.

“We may feel that that’s too little too late, but we will want to talk to the Myanmar authorities about how they see accountability in this case. And then we will explore what might need to be done beyond that,” she said.

Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi flatly rejected a suggestion that the Security Council was shielding Myanmar from international pressure.

“No one is protecting anyone,” he said. “What we really want to see, we want to see that…the international obligation is implemented.”

He said the delegates met with refugees in the Cox’s Bazar camps with the help of the Bangladesh Foreign Affairs Ministry and called the current situation “not acceptable.”

“We are determined to find an end and a solution for this crisis. We are not expecting to have, to easily solve this problem very quick. But all the parties should show commitments to solve it as soon as possible,” the Kuwaiti ambassador said.

“We cannot remain silent about it, and when we go back to New York…we will try to explore ways and means to speed up the implementation of the agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar for safe, free and voluntary and dignified return of the refugees,” he added.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to see the refugees repatriated in November, but none has returned to Myanmar to date.

“We will talk to also the officials in Myanmar and we would like to hear from them. And we will go back to the council [and] we will consider it for sure,” Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi said. “This issue will remain on our agenda and it’s one of our priorities.”

The delegates avoided the term Rohingya in referring to the nearly 700,000 people who have fled Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State since late August, when militant attacks on security posts there set off a sweeping military clearance operation the UN and US have referred to as ethnic cleansing.

The Myanmar military insists the Rohingya do not constitute a distinct ethnic group and insists on calling them Bengali, implying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The UN team referred to the Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh simply as refugees.