Myanmar Failing to Create Conditions Needed for Rohingya Return: UN

By Muktadir Rashid   26 January 2019

DHAKA—The United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, on Friday said Myanmar security forces have been engaged in an intimidation campaign against Rohingya people living in border areas and camps in Bangladesh to ensure they do not return to Myanmar.

“It is evident that Myanmar is not working to create conditions for return for the Rohingya but is engaging in a sustained campaign of violence, intimidation and harassment,” she told a press conference at a hotel in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Friday evening. The press conference marked the conclusion of her 11-day visit to Bangladesh and Thailand.

To the contrary, she said, Myanmar security forces have continued to force Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

The UN special envoy said she had found during her visit that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will not be able to return to Myanmar in the near future. She encouraged the Bangladeshi government to begin to engage in longer-term planning and prepare the local population for this reality.

She also suggested UN member countries consider setting up an ad-hoc court on Myanmar for ensuring accountability for crimes against humanity in Rakhine State.

Obtaining such a decision from the UN Security Council is unlikely as permanent members have veto power and they are not all likely to agree. Therefore, she said, UN member countries could also take the step of establishing an ad-hoc court on Myanmar, among several other options.

She expressed her annoyance over the deportation of Rohingya people from India and Saudi Arabia to Bangladesh, adding that Delhi and Riyadh must ensure that the Rohingya people can live in safety and dignity within their territories until the refugees can return home.

Lee on Thursday visited Bhashan Char, an island in Noakhali District, to check the progress of facilities there. The Bangladesh government has a plan to transfer a portion of the Rohingya refugees to the island.

“If any plans are made about refugee relocation in the future, refugees must be fully engaged and participate in the process,” she said. “Without a protection framework agreed with the humanitarian community, the plans cannot move forward.”

She said third-country resettlement was not a realistic possibility, given the huge number of people involved.

In a separate statement issued by the UN in Geneva on the same day, Lee said, “Communities are divided based on religion and ethnicity, and members of minorities face marginalization and discrimination. Ethnic nationalities continue to be subject to domination by [Myanmar’s] central government and the military, despite the official stance that they are working for peace to be brought to the country.”

Regarding the situation in Rakhine State, Lee said the escalation in fighting between the military and the Arakan Army is very worrisome, especially because the government and military have blocked humanitarian access. The special rapporteur also noted that there was continued fighting in Kayin State, and that new military bases have been built in Kayah State.