NEW YORK, Bowing to international pressure on the Rohingya refugee crisis, Myanmar’s Government has, finally, given the nod to a visit by a United Nations Security Council delegation, which will also visit Bangladesh and another country in two separate visits in the latter part of April.
Peru’s ambassador Gustava Meza-Cuadra, as the UNSC’s rotating president for the month of April, told the international media at the UN headquarters in New York three days ago that while there had been a positive sign from Myanmar, details of the two visits were still being worked out.
The UNSC, he added, was still working on the coordination of both trips, and more details could be provided at a later date.
There has been an international outcry in recent months over the mass exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya refugees to Cox’s Bazar area in Bangladesh following Myanmar’s military crackdown on the Rohingya community.
UN experts, speaking anonymously to Bernama, fear that the refugee problem could be exacerbated with the advent of the monsoon season, causing heavy flooding and affecting the Rohingya refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar.
The Myanmar Government, facing severe criticism in recent months, is hoping that the UNSC delegation’s visit could help improve the strained relations with the international community.
Myanmar’s acquiescence in receiving the UNSC comes after stubborn resistance to letting an independent UN-mandated mission to investigate the atrocities committed against the Rohingya community in a crackdown by the Myanmar military in Rakhine state.
Criticism of Myanmar’s military crackdown on the Rohingyas did not spare Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu-Kyi for not speaking out vocally against the atrocities.
Indeed, veteran U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson criticised Aung San Suu-Kyi, a long-time friend, for lacking moral leadership.
Details available in UN circles suggest the chairman of a Myanmar-appointed advisory group, which also advises Suu Kyi on the Rakhine crisis, had recommended that the UNSC delegation’s visit be allowed.
But it is not clear, as of now, whether Myanmar has agreed to allow the delegation to travel to Rakhine state which generated widespread reports of arson, rape and murder by Myanmar’s security forces. Myanmar denied such reports.
US experts on ASEAN describe the Myanmar government’s agreement to receive the UNSC delegation as an important step forward in the country’s international relationship with the UN.
Indeed, representatives from neighbouring states as well as from Singapore, as the chair of the ASEAN group, have reportedly also been invited to observe the UNSC visit.
But the UN and human rights groups warn that Rohingya returning to Myanmar would continue to face systematic discrimination, if not violence, in Myanmar where they are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denied citizenship and access to basic services.
Calls to hold a special UNSC debate on the Rohingya issue appear to be receding following Myanmar’s agreement to receive the UNSC delegation.
Nevertheless, the UNSC has already discussed the Rohingya crisis several times since August 2017, with the UN agencies condemning the atrocities of the Myanmar military and the government’s refusal to acknowledge or stop them.
Suu Kyi, who also serves as Myanmar’s foreign affairs minister, met last week Ursula Mueller, assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who has just completed her visit to Myanmar.
Mueller also held meetings with Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine leaders in Sittwe, and members of the Rakhine state government, besides visiting local camps housing displaced Muslims who fled communal violence in 2012.
Mueller told journalists, after her visit, that she did not believe that Myanmar was ready yet to receive the refugees because, according to people she had talked to, basic facilities such as health services, proper sanitation, protection of the people, etc., were lacking.
Indeed, the conditions were not conducive for the return of the refugees.
Myanmar’s government had signed an agreement with Bangladesh in November 2017 to ensure that the return was fair, dignified and safe.
Mueller was given rare access to visit the affected areas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state; she also met Myanmar’s ministers for defence and border-control affairs, as well as other senior officials.
She called on the Myanmar government to end the violence and to allow the return of the refugees from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on a voluntary, dignified way when solutions are durable.
However, experts are not sure whether the refugees would be allowed to return to their homes after a temporary stay in camps.
One of the reasons, as the New York-based Human Rights Watch has said, is that Myanmar has bulldozed at least 55 villages which were emptied following the violence.
Source: NAM News Network