UN Security Council Team Visits Northern Rakhine State

By The Irrawaddy 1 May 2018

YANGON — A UN Security Council (UNSC) delegation visited northern Rakhine State on Tuesday to learn about the situation on the ground there. The team arrived in the state capital, Sittwe, on Tuesday morning and headed to strife-torn Maungdaw Township at about 11 a.m.

The delegation arrived in Myanmar on Monday from Bangladesh and met with Myanmar officials in Naypyitaw.

Daw Khin Nyo, a Lower House lawmaker and member of the Advisory Board on Rakhine State who met with the delegation on Monday, told The Irrawaddy the delegation accused the government of deliberately putting off the repatriation of Muslim refugees and raised questions about the difficulty of the repatriation procedures.

She said the delegation was unwilling to listen to Myanmar officials, and appeared unreasonably focused on unsubstantiated hearsay.

“Their faces clearly showed that they didn’t believe anything we said. They just didn’t care to listen to us. It seems that they have been swayed by the accounts of the other side. They only talked about killings, gang rapes, and throwing living children onto fires,” said Daw Khin Nyo, who attended a working dinner hosted by State Counselor’s Office Minister U Kyaw Tint Swe in Naypyitaw.

When the Myanmar officials asked for evidence for the claims, the delegation members said they had heard them from refugees in Bangladesh. The delegation voiced doubts when Myanmar officials said that indigenous people in Rakhine State had also been killed and victimized by the violence there, she said.

“When we raised the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army [ARSA], they said that we always discuss ARSA [when it comes to the Rohingya issue]. When we talked about the Hindus killed by ARSA, they said, ‘Please show us,’” Daw Khin Nyo said.

ARSA launched attacks on Myanmar security forces in northern Rakhine in August last year. The attacks prompted clearance operations by the military, which prompted an exodus of Rohingya people to nearby Bangladesh. Those who fled alleged arbitrary killings, rapes and burning of property by security forces.

Before the dinner, the delegation members held talks with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and military commander-in-chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing. Despite statements issued by both sides reporting that the discussions focused on the Rakhine issue, the meetings didn’t go well, according to government officials who were present.

During the meeting, the State Counselor underscored the country’s readiness to receive verified returnees and to cooperate with Bangladesh to expedite the repatriation process, according to the State Counselor’s Office. She stressed the importance of Bangladesh officials using the designated forms agreed upon by both countries as early as possible for verification, it said.

The Security Council delegation will hold a press conference on Tuesday evening in Naypyitaw.