United Nations officials visit Myanmar amid concerns over Rohingya repatriation, monsoon season

Desiree Steele
May 1, 2018

Members of the United Nations security council have expressed dismay at the "overwhelming" suffering they encountered in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing Myanmar.

The refugee crisis exploded about eight months ago when the Myanmar military launched a crackdown over Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts.

The UN described the atrocities by the Myanmar military on Rohingya refugees as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing while the rights groups called it a genocide.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday morning met with the visiting UNSC delegation led by Gustavo Meza-Cuadra at Gonobhaban.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the accord last November but no refugee has yet been sent back from Bangladesh.

Security Council envoys visited Hasina in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, before travelling to Myanmar for meetings with its government leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and military Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing later on Monday.

Peru's ambassador to the United Nations and delegation leader Gustavo Adolfo Meza Cuadra Velasqez said he and his fellow team members were ready to "work hard" and were "very concerned" about the crisis.

However, deputy Russian ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy, whose country has supported Myanmar, warned that the council did not have a "magic stick" to resolve what is now one of the world's worst refugee crises.

Rohingya population flocked to meet the delegation - five permanent members from China, France, Russia, UK and the United States, and 10 other non-permanent members - at Kutupalong camp, wielding posters and demanding safe repatriation back to Myanmar.

"The worldwide community should keep up pressure on the Myanmar government in this regard", she said.

Prior to the briefing, the delegation visited Kutupalong refugee camp and Tombru border in Bandarban's Naikhyangchhari to assess first-hand the plight of the refugees there.

Buddhist-majority Burma has for years denied Rohingya citizenship, freedom of movement and access to many basic services such as health care and education.

Rohingya Muslims have always been treated as outsiders in Burma, even though their families have lived in the country for generations.

"I will tell them my stories".

They are to go on a helicopter flight over Rakhine to see the remains of villages torched during the violence. They carried signs, some of which said "We want justice". "The threat of raising this issue in the Security Council shouldn't be used as a leverage for the Myanmar government to cooperate". Myanmar authorities claim the military operation in Rakhine is aimed at rooting out extremists and have denied nearly all reports of alleged atrocities committed by its security forces in the region.

Kuwait's Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi said the visit was not about "naming and shaming" Myanmar, but that "the message will be very clear for them: the global community is following the situation and has great interest in resolving it". The team said in March that it found evidence of human rights violations against the Kachin, Shan and Rohingya minorities "in all likelihood amounting to crimes under worldwide law".

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