UN Envoys Want ‘Proper’ Probe of Atrocities Against Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

2018-05-01
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United Nations Security Council delegates arrive at Sittwe airport in western Myanmar's Rakhine state, May 1, 2018.
United Nations Security Council delegates arrive at Sittwe airport in western Myanmar's Rakhine state, May 1, 2018.
AFP

United Nations Security Council diplomats who visited northern Rakhine state on Tuesday called on Myanmar to conduct what they called a “proper” investigation into atrocities against the Rohingya during a military crackdown.

Thousands of Rohingya were killed during the crackdown launched late last August in response to deadly attacks on police outposts by Muslim militants, while others say their communities endured torture, rape, and arson at the hands of security forces.

Both the U.N. and United States have said that the campaign, which forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya to flee to safety in Bangladesh, amounted to ethnic cleansing.

The U.N.’s 15 permanent envoys spent two days in Myanmar to assess the situation on the ground in Rakhine state amid a program to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.

"[I]n order to have accountability there must be a proper investigation,” Karen Pierce, Britain’s ambassador to the U.N., told reporters during a news conference following the delegation’s visit to Rakhine state.

Myanmar can set up such a probe through an International Criminal Court (ICC) referral or by holding its own comprehensive inquiry, she said.

An ICC prosecutor asked the international tribunal in April to rule on whether the court can exercise jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of the Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh, even though Myanmar is not a member of the ICC.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed an agreement for the voluntary return of refugees who are eligible for repatriation pending verification. The program was slated to begin in late January but has been beset by delays.

‘We need to start on that’

The U.N. and rights groups have asked Myanmar to guarantee the safety and basic rights of the Rohingya, who are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and subject to systematic discrimination. Many have said they remain afraid to return.

“It is very important to improve the security conditions for the return of the refugees [and] also improve cooperation with international organizations, particularly the United Nations,” said Security Council President Gustavo Meza-Cuadra. “We also mentioned the importance of the investigations regarding what happened there before the refugees went to Bangladesh.”

Myanmar has yet to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Nations Development Programme and U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) on working together on the repatriation of refugees. The UNHCR has already signed a separate similar agreement with Bangladesh.

Maansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi, Kuwait’s permanent representative at the U.N. and a member of the delegation, expressed confidence that the agreement would be signed, adding that the U.N. wants Myanmar and Bangladesh to speed up the repatriation process.

Pierce said the delegation wants to help the Myanmar government with implementing the recommendations on Rakhine state issued by an earlier panel chaired by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, as well as support the signing of the MoUs.

That commission’s report called for reviews of the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law, which prevents the Rohingya from becoming citizens, an end to restrictions on the Muslim minority to prevent further violence in the region, and the closure of internally displaced persons camps in Rakhine state.

“We believe if the MoUs can be signed quickly and U.N. agencies be given unconditional access, that will be the best thing to do for the scale of the problem — the absolute scale of having to get … so many refugees back home in security and safety so they can practice their livelihoods over time,” Pierce said. “Even if it takes a long time, we need to start on that.”

UN Security Council members (from left) Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi from Kuwait, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra from Peru, Joanna Wronecka from Poland, and Karen Pierce from Great Britain speak at a press conference in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw, May 1, 2018.
UN Security Council members (from left) Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi from Kuwait, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra from Peru, Joanna Wronecka from Poland, and Karen Pierce from Great Britain speak at a press conference in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw, May 1, 2018. Credit: AFP
‘Their attitude will change’

Tin Maung Swe, secretary of the Rakhine state government, told RFA’s Myanmar Service that the delegation’s perception of the crisis may have changed after its visit.

“Because there was a planned meeting between the U.N. security team and local [Rakhine] ethnics, they learned that the truth is different from what they have heard,” he said. “They got to know about what really happened in Rakhine state, and because they have seen and know the truth, we think their attitude will change at least a little.”

Aye Lwin, a Muslim representative on the Annan’s advisory commission, met with the delegates in Rakhine state and urged them to ask the international community for support for Myanmar.

“I told them that Myanmar needs positive help from the international community,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service after the meeting. “We need to find a new way because we are facing many hardships when it comes to solving problems.

“I told them that if the international community, including U.N. agencies, can give positive suggestions to Myanmar’s policymakers, there will be some good results,” said the Muslim leader and founder of the interfaith group Religions for Peace Myanmar.

Aye Lwin also reminded the delegates that refugees living in makeshift shelters in Bangladesh as well as in Myanmar will face a major risk from floods and landslides during the fast-approaching monsoon season.

“We all know that people from Bangladesh’s refugee camps can’t return home in the short term, so they need to be in the proper shelters during this season,” he said.

Aye Lwin also told the diplomats that the level of trust among the Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists needed to be strengthened to implement the recommendations of the Annan commission because both communities remain suspicious of the other.

An impartial judgment

Nyo Aye, chairwoman of the activist organization Rakhine Women’s Network, met with the diplomats for only 15 minutes to discuss the contentious relationship between Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine state.

“They asked us why we hate each other and how we can get along with each other again,” she told RFA. “We replied that we [ethnic Rakhine] are always careful and still have a relationship with them [Muslims] in the region.”

“We told them that the hatred between us grew because of the international media as they spread false news” about the situation in Rakhine state, she said.

Nyo Aye informed one delegate that some of the refugees the U.N. team saw in displacement camps in Bangladesh before visiting Myanmar were not all from Rakhine state, but were Bangladeshis who themselves live in the camps. She did not say how she knew the refugees were Bangladeshis.

“I also told her that now that she had seen both the situations in Bangladesh and in Rakhine, I hope you can form an impartial judgment about them.”

On Monday, the 15 diplomats met with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and other government officials.

Before they began their two-day visit to Myanmar, the delegation members spent three days in Bangladesh visiting refugee camps and meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Reported by Min Thein Aung, Nay Rein Kyaw, and Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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Sai Cliff Lin Kan

Why don't the UN Security Council members ask the Bengali refugee about where the mass graves of 6700 Bengali bodies were buried?
The refugee whom told to MSF staffs, Journalists and the UNHCR staffs about Burmese soldiers massacred of 6700 Bengali Muslim villagers are still living in Refugee Camps in Bangladeshi border.
The UN Diplomat delegation should go back to the Refugee Camp and find the MSF staff and the Bengali refugee who told to MSF staffs and Journalists and the UNHCR staffs about the massacre of 6,700 Bengali Muslims. The UN officials must give all evidences to the Burmese Government, which were given by victims in the refugee camp.
If the atrocity was actually happening in Rakhine State and then the 6,700 bodies will be found at where the refugees stated and told to MSF staffs.
The Burmese Military must allow the UN officials and reputable international journalists to go with them when the Burmese authority goes to find the mass graves of 6700 Bengali bodies. They cannot hide 6.700 bodies.
Only 10 bodies of Bengali men were found in the Inn Dinn village cemetery and it was committed by the victim's son, villagers and some security force members.
Some of the soldiers who involved in the execution of 10 Bengali terrorist suspects were jailed for 10 years and an officer was demoted rank and some were permanent dismissed from the Army. The villagers and victim’s son who initiated attacked and murdered of 10 Bengali terrorist suspects were trailing at the civil court.
There are many fabricated stories published by the AP News Agency and Reuters News Agency.

The AP reporter reporting about the GU Dar Pyin massacre was a mass-killing of Rohingya people by the Myanmar Army and armed Rakhine locals on 27 August 2017 was false and fabricated story.
The Bengali Muslim headman and villagers of the GU Dar Pyin village have denied the Burmese soldiers killed 400 Bengali Muslim villagers who were playing Football when the Burmese soldiers shot them and killed.
The Bengali Muslim villagers and the village headman of the GU Dar Pyin village have told to journalists the mass killing has never happened in the GU Dar Pyin village. Also, there’s no mass grave was found at where the AP reporter stated according to victim account who was in the Refugee Camp.

To clear all accusation and fabricated stories reported by foreign journalists, the OIC, the UN Human Rights’ High Commissioner, the Burmese Government and the Military leader must allow the UN official and the international delegation to find the mass graves where the refugees stated. The UN official must be neutral and honest and must not take order for any organization. The Burmese Government and Military leader must worry if they're nothing to hide about those accusations, rumor and false news, and fabricated stories. The UN Human Rights’ officials must respect their own integrity and report exactly what they found about the accusation against Buddhist villagers and the Military.

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