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UNHCR and UNDP urge tangible progress to improve conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

UNHCR and UNDP urge tangible progress to improve conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

08 August 2018

Two months since the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UNHCR, UNDP, and the Government of Myanmar, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and UNDP, the UN’s development agency, are both urging Myanmar authorities to make tangible progress to improve conditions in Rakhine State. The Myanmar government’s willingness to take the lead in the implementation of this agreement is critical to creating conditions conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees.

The government has taken some encouraging steps since the MoU was signed on 6 June, including the formation of a tripartite Technical Working Group to support the implementation of the MoU; enabling an important visit by senior UNHCR and UNDP officials to the northern part of Rakhine State in early July; and facilitating an initial joint field visit to Rakhine State by the Technical Working Group mid-July. However, substantial progress is urgently needed in three key areas covered by the MoU: granting effective access in Rakhine State; ensuring freedom of movement for all communities; and addressing the root causes of the crisis.

First, effective access requires being able to consult, freely and independently and on a day-to-day basis, with communities in Rakhine State about their needs. It also necessitates a predictable, flexible and simplified procedure to approve travel authorizations within a reasonable period of time for UNHCR and UNDP staff to go to the areas where these communities reside. These are basic criteria for enabling us to carry out our work in the areas of Rakhine State covered by the MoU. On 14 June, UNHCR and UNDP submitted travel authorization requests for international staff to be based in Maungdaw and to start their work in the northern part of Rakhine State, and are waiting for a response from the Government to these requests.

Second, freedom of movement, as well as increased public services delivery, are crucial for all communities in Rakhine State, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or citizenship status. During the visit by senior UNHCR and UNDP officials in early July, it was evident that the remaining communities in the northern part of Rakhine State continue to live in fear of one another. All communities have been affected by the violence, but the remaining Rohingya communities are affected most of all. In particular, local orders severely restrict their freedom of movement. These restrictions prevent Rohingya communities from being able to work, go to school, and access healthcare.  They also prevent them from being able to interact with friends, family, and other communities in Rakhine State. Freedom to move was one of the most frequent requests expressed by Rohingya communities during the UNHCR-UNDP visit.

Third, it is fundamental to address the root causes of the crisis. The most sobering feature of northern areas of Rakhine State today is the empty space where villages used to stand. Unused and empty paddy fields are a stark reminder of the missing population who used to cultivate them. The signing of the tripartite MoU with the Government of Myanmar will not, in itself, allow Rohingya refugees to return home to Myanmar. In line with the MoU, root causes need to be addressed by implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, including a clear, voluntary and equal pathway to citizenship for all eligible individuals.

Confidence building measures need to take root, starting with facilitating access for UNHCR and UNDP to commence needs assessment visits to identify quick-impact projects in priority village tracts that have been agreed with the Government.

UNHCR together with UNDP remains prepared to support Myanmar in improving conditions in Rakhine State and operationalizing the MoU.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

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Statement on behalf of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura

Statement on behalf of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura

Today Special Envoy de Mistura chaired informal consultations with senior representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey, during the Astana-format meeting in Sochi, Russian Federation.

The consultations focused on realising further progress on the implementation of the Sochi Final Statement and the establishment of a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned constitutional committee, facilitated by the UN, within the framework of the Geneva process and in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).

The meeting saw useful exchanges on the composition of the constitutional committee, in line with the criteria outlined in resolution 2254 (2015) and the Sochi Final Statement, as well as a range of other issues related to the establishment and functioning of a constitutional committee.

The Special Envoy looks forward to holding formal consultations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey, very early in September in Geneva, in order to begin to finalise the constitutional committee.

 Geneva, 31 July 2018

UN Experts on Myanmar conclude visit to Bangladesh weeks ahead of the release of its final report

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 19 July 2018 – United Nations human rights experts have concluded a five-day visit to Bangladesh, where they met newly arrived Rohingya refugees from Rakhine State, Myanmar, in the final weeks before the publication of their comprehensive written report.

This visit of the Human Rights Council-mandated Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar to Bangladesh provided an opportunity for its experts and their team of investigators to hear fresh accounts of abuse and violence committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar, including those who recently arrived in Bangladesh.  This is the second visit by the experts themselves, supplementing the investigations undertaken by their staff continuously since September 2017.

Among the new arrivals that the experts spoke with were those better off financially than the earlier arrivals. They referred to the overt threats they faced of violence and persecution, being cut off from their sources of livelihood, and the overall menacing environment that finally compelled them to leave for Bangladesh. The arrivals of new refugees until today reflects the continuing gravity of the human rights violations in Myanmar.

“The trip we undertook this week is our final field mission under our mandate,” remarked Marzuki Darusman, former Indonesian Attorney General and Chairperson of the Fact-Finding Mission. “We started our fact-finding work here in Bangladesh, and we now finish here in the run up to the report we will be presenting to the Human Rights Council in September. The many victims we have spoken with have been asking questions about their future. The solution is to alleviate their suffering, to respect law and ensure justice.”

During their visit to the Bangladeshi coastal town of Cox’s Bazar between 16 and 19 July, the experts interviewed Rohingya refugees in the Kutupalong camp, the world’s biggest refugee camp with a population of one million and counting, and also the most densely populated.  Over 700,000 of these have been forced to settle in the camps following the ‘clearance operations’ of the Myanmar military that commenced on 25 August 2017. The visit comes during the monsoon season in Bangladesh, which has greatly increased the dangers and distress refugees face.

In Cox’s Bazar and in Dhaka, the experts also met with officials in the Government of Bangladesh, and various intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. The experts previously visited Bangladesh in October last year, some weeks after the late August violence in neighbouring Rakhine State sparked a mass exodus of Rohingya victims. This week’s visit made it possible for the experts to see first-hand how their situation has evolved since last year and their current living conditions.

Expert Radhika Coomaraswamy from Sri Lanka, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, is leading the Mission’s work on sexual and gender-based violence.  This week she heard from men who suffered from torture in detention.  Those she met with expressed an increasing anxiety about their future.  “The young men I spoke with were particularly anxious, showing signs of deep trauma.  Without education and livelihood I fear for their future.”

The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar was established by the Human Rights Council in March 2017 “to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State”.  The experts have defined “recent” to mean since 2011.  Among many issues, the Fact-Finding Mission is examining the nature of the violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, torture, killings, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, severe restrictions on movements, forced labour, and the use of hate speech prior to and in the context of the current crisis in Myanmar.

The third expert, Christopher Sidoti, the former Australian Human Rights Commissioner, noted how the type of “profound suffering” experienced by the Rohingya was evident in other parts of Myanmar.  “Unfortunately, the patterns of violence seen since last year are not unique to Rakhine State. They correspond to patterns of violations against ethnic and religious minorities in general in Myanmar.  He added: “Over the last months, the situation in Kachin and Shan State has deteriorated significantly and we are hearing reports of widespread violations there too.”

In fulfilling its mandate, the Fact-Finding Mission collects information from a wide variety of sources which it then verifies and corroborates.  In doing so, the experts and team of investigators chiefly rely on primary sources of information, such as direct witnesses and victims, verified imagery, forensic and other expert analyses, the actual text of laws and direct pronouncements by the authorities.  It then checks the information with other reliable sources. Despite being denied access and cooperation by the Myanmar authorities, field missions such as this one have allowed the Fact-Finding Mission to build a comprehensive picture of the facts.

The three-member Fact-Finding Mission is supported by a team of investigators and other specialists, who have conducted many intensive missions over the past year to Cox’s Bazar and other locations.

The Fact-Finding Mission is scheduled to present its findings to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 18 September. It has previously presented three oral updates to the 47-member Human Rights Council – in September and December 2017, and March 2018.

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For additional information about the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, please visit: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/MyanmarFFM/Pages/Index.aspx

For further media information please contact: Rolando Gómez, Human Rights Council Media Officer, OHCHR, Geneva, tel: +41-79-4774411, email: rgomez@ohchr.org

Note to Correspondents: Visit of the United Nations Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar to Bangladesh

United Nations Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener conducted her first official visit to Bangladesh from 14 to 16 July.  In Dhaka, she met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Director General of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, Major General Md. Saiful Abedin, Foreign Secretary Md. Shahidul Haque, the diplomatic community, and the UN country team.  In Cox’s Bazar, she held discussions with the population in the Kutupalong camp, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam, and Senior Coordinator Sumbul Rizvi and the members of the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG).  She is grateful for the work of the humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organisations in the challenging environment.

Following the joint visit of the Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank to Bangladesh earlier this month, the Special Envoy discussed the plight of the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and expressed her sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Bangladesh, in particular the host communities, for the efforts to accept and provide assistance to thepeople seeking refuge from violence.  The Special Envoy underlined the need for greater international assistance to the refugees and host communities in addressing the harsh conditions they continue to face and also in terms of mitigating the risk of monsoons.

The ongoing crisis requires a political solution that addresses the underlying issues. In Cox’s Bazar, she visited the sprawling refugee camps and heard from the people accounts of unimaginable atrocities committed in Rakhine State.  The Special Envoy was deeply moved by their personal stories and their strength. Despite these serious violations of human rights, they expressed to the Envoy their hope to return home if security could be guaranteed and citizenship could be provided.    In all discussions during the visit, the Special Envoy also underlined the importance of accountability for the crimes committed.

Updating the interlocutors on her recent visits to Myanmar and stressing to them the importance of the principles of the United Nations, including promotion and protection of human rights, the Special Envoy expressed her support to the implementation of the 23 November 2017 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Bangladesh and Myanmar, and the 6 June 2018 MOU between the Government of Myanmar, UNHCR and UNDP as important first steps. She stressed that their implementation should begin as soon as possible along with other measures towards a conducive environment for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of the people to their place of origin or choice. It remains her priority to help address the root causes of the crisis, including through the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, in particular ending restrictions on basic rights such as freedom of movement and resolving the citizenship issue.  There is an urgency for all concerned to take concrete measures towards these goals.  The Special Envoy emphasized that the United Nations stood ready to provide relevant experiences and expertise in this regard.

The Special Envoy advised her interlocutors that the Organisation would soon establish her main supporting office in Nay Pyi Taw. She plans to visit New York next week, including to provide a briefing to the Security Council, and to visit Myanmar again in early September.

 Dhaka, 17 July 2018

 

PRESS RELEASE – UN Assistant Secretary-General opens new UN office in Myanmar’s capital

 

PRESS RELEASE

UN Assistant Secretary-General opens new UN office in Myanmar’s capital

 11 July 2018, Nay Pyi Taw –  The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Mr. Haoliang Xu officially inaugurated the new UN office in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw today in the presence of the Union Minister for Planning and Finance, H.E. U Soe Win, the Union Minister for International Cooperation, H.E. U Kyaw Tin, senior government officials, development partners and UN agencies.

“This common UN Office symbolizes a UN which is coordinated and doing its outmost to support the Government and all people of Myanmar and living up to the values enshrined in the UN Charter,” said Mr. Xu. The UN office in the country’s capital shows the commitment of the UN system to work closely with the Government to support the people of Myanmar to achieve the peaceful and prosperous future they all deserve.

The new joint office comes at a significant moment as the General Assembly approved the UN reform which aims to strengthen the UN’s ability to work closer and more effectively together to support Governments and people in need.

“The UN in Myanmar is strongly committed to implement the Secretary-General’s reform agenda and to bring the UN, as one entity, closer to the Government for more effective implementation of the different agencies mandates and to address the challenges that lie ahead,” said Mr Xu.

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, Union Minister for Planning and Finance H.E. U Soe Win said, “I would like to thank all UN agencies for the purpose of better coordination, more streamlined and cost-efficient operation support for Myanmar.”

“I do hope that this will enhance stronger UN coherence and coordination, especially in working with counterpart ministries. I believe that this will allowing having mutual benefits for both of us in future cooperation and will definitely facilitate our day-to-day engagement and interaction between government ministries and UN system.”

The new UN office is located in Oattara Thiri Township in Nay Pyi Taw. It houses 12 of the 17 UN agencies resident in Myanmar : UNDP, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), UNHCR, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Joint United Nations Programme on  HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UNHABITAT) and the United Nations Resident Coordinator Office.

The United Nations System has been working in Myanmar since its independence in 1948, providing both development and humanitarian assistance to the country.

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For more information, please contact:

Aye Win

National Information Officer, UNIC Yangon

Tel: 95 9 421060343

Email; wina@un.org

End of mission statement by Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

End of mission statement by Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

Dhaka 8 July 2018

I am pleased to present my end of mission statement as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Thank you for your attendance and the opportunity to address you this afternoon.

Since December 2017, the Myanmar Government has not allowed me to visit Myanmar to carry out my work mandated by the Human Rights Council.  Following renewal of my mandate in March, I had also requested the Government of India to facilitate a visit to India so I could meet with Myanmar refugees in New Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Mizoram, but received no response.

Before I proceed further, let me take this opportunity to thank the Government of Bangladesh for always welcoming me and facilitating my visit.  The UN entities in Bangladesh, particularly the Resident Coordinator’s Office, have been extremely helpful in facilitating my visit, and I am grateful to the Inter Sector Coordination Group and those who provided support in Cox’s Bazar. As the Government denied my access to Myanmar, I was only able to meet people in Bangladesh, the neighbouring country that hosts over one million refugees from Myanmar. In Dhaka, I met with Government, UN agencies and INGOs, and in Cox’s Bazar I met Rohingya refugees in a number of camps and settlements as well as the Government, UN, humanitarian and protection actors and NGOs. I also thank the UN Country Team in Myanmar for speaking with me. I took many photos of what I saw, and will upload them on Flickr, the link will be on my Special Rapporteur webpage.

What I am presenting today are preliminary findings resulting from this visit. My report to the Third Committee of the 73rd UN General Assembly in October will contain more detailed findings.

Recently, I have received more questions than ever about my mandate and work on Myanmar. I have also read reports that state that I no longer hold the mandate, or that I have been replaced by the Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations. At the outset, I would like to clarify that my mandate was established by the Human Rights Council, a body that was established in 2006 pursuant to the resolution 60/251 of the General Assembly. My mandate was renewed in March this year for a period of one year. The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert who is mandated to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to the Human Rights Council and General Assembly every year. My role is therefore different to that of the Special Envoy, an individual dignitary who is appointed by the Secretary General to “provide good offices and to pursue discussion” on a range of issues.

Additionally, through my recent discussions, I see the need to provide clarification on two other issues. First, the critical issue of status. The people who fled decades-long systematic discrimination and recent extreme violence in Myanmar and now live in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh are Rohingya refugees. International law is very clear. The definition of refugees provided by article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention applies the refugees from Myanmar living in Bangladesh and other countries. The Rohingyas in Bangladesh fled Myanmar owing to a well-founded fear of persecution and as a result of ongoing persecution by the Government and the military for reasons of their ethnicity, race and religion. They must be recognised as Rohingya refugees by all, including by host Governments such as Bangladesh, and they must be referred to as refugees in all public and private statements by all actors, as well as on any documentation issued to them. Refusal to recognise their identity, their ethnicity and their current status denies them rights to which they are entitled, not least the right of non-refoulement to Myanmar.

Second, we must all acknowledge not only the Rohingyas’ status as stateless people, but the way in which their statelessness came about. Rohingya citizenship rights have been systematically wound back since the 1970s and they have been effectively barred from accessing them since the introduction of the 1982 Citizenship Law. The Myanmar Government has discriminatorily denied citizenship to them since that time, and continues to do so.

While I was in Cox’s Bazar, I met with refugees who showed me documentation related to citizenship held by previous generations, including their parents and grandparents, that they have carefully preserved. When we speak of the future of the Rohingyas’ citizenship, we must speak of its restoration by the Government of Myanmar, and not use vague terminology such as a “pathway to citizenship”. Doing so denies the reality of what has happened, as well as the dignity of the people that it happened to, and does not provide a durable and long-lasting solution for the Rohingya population. The Myanmar Government has committed to ensuring a ‘pathway to citizenship’ for the Rohingya people. However in reality, for years, successive governments have placed the Rohingya on a pathway away from the citizenship rights that they previously enjoyed.

During this mission, I have had the opportunity to have teleconferences with various individuals and groups in Myanmar. I am alarmed by what I was told about the developments affecting the human rights of those in Myanmar by all the people I spoke to on this trip in person and by phone. Overwhelmingly the message that they gave me is that enough is enough; the reprehensible situation that exists for the people of Myanmar today must end.

It was reported to me that the democratic space in Myanmar continues to sharply deteriorate. Repressive laws, for example the Telecommunications Law, the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and the Unlawful Associations Law continue to be used to suppress the legitimate exercise of the rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association, and freedom of the press. I have received credible information that at least 6 persons were charged under section 66(d) of Myanmar’s Telecommunications Law in June 2018 while exercising their legitimate freedoms. The arbitrary and subjective interpretation and applications of these laws to supress political dissidents, youth, human rights defenders and activists has resulted in there continuing to be political detainees and prisoners, despite so many members of the NLD having been political prisoners themselves. I urge the Government to repeal and amend the problematic laws that I have repeatedly flagged and undertake the necessary work to ensure people in Myanmar do not live in a climate of fear while exercising their fundamental democratic rights.

I am told that on 9 July, the two Reuters journalists who have faced prolonged legal proceedings since December last year will finally hear whether there is a case against them, or if they will be discharged. They have reportedly been deprived of medical support and subjected to sleep deprivation in contravention of the prohibition against inhuman and degrading treatment and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

I have recently received reports that police violently suppressed a protest against the erection of a statue of General Aung San in Kayah State, home to ethnic Karenni people. Ten youth were arrested and charged with incitement under section 505(b) and (c) of the Penal Code in relation to a letter that they distributed to the protestors. This is the latest in a series of arbitrary arrests of young demonstrators around the country who are seeking to exercise their right of peaceful assembly in the causes of peace and respect for ethnic minority rights. The topic of minority rights had been slated for discussion at the upcoming Third 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference, however reportedly it is now off the agenda. With minority rights issues, including discrimination, being at the core of so many problems faced by Myanmar, I urge all the relevant stakeholders to begin to have these difficult discussions, as resolution of these issues will be critical to Myanmar’s peaceful future.

I have spoken with people in Kachin and Shan States who have informed me about the terrifying new tactic of the Tatmadaw, where it uses civilians trapped in conflict zones as human shields. This is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and must be stopped immediately. The 20,000 people who have been newly displaced in these States remain unable to safely return home and have very little assistance, with humanitarian access being increasingly constrained, including for national organisations. This occurrence is a violation of Myanmar’s obligation under international humanitarian law to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need. In Shan State, I am told of persistent arrests of individuals in rural areas who are suspected of supporting Shan armed groups on the basis of their having hunting rifles which were reportedly lawfully obtained.

Land confiscation by the military has long been a serious issue in Myanmar. However it is apparent to me that some very concerning trends are emerging whereby people displaced by violence or conflict around the country are effectively being deprived of their land by the Government. In Kachin, the number of banana plantations being established on the land of those who fled is increasing. Several hundred IDPs in Myitkyina reportedly have recently been relocated to land chosen by the government, not their places of origin or choosing, and given no assistance other than three months of food rations. I am greatly worried about what the future will bring for these people, and others if this trend continues in conflict-affected areas of the country.

During this visit to Bangladesh, I spoke to some refugees who arrived in Cox’s Bazar in recent days. What they told me indicates that the situation in northern Rakhine is far from stable or safe; systematic violence targeted against the remaining Rohingya population continues. These refugees told me that Myanmar security forces had entered their villages and told them that they must accept the National Verification Card (NVC) – a form of documentation that does not provide citizenship rights and which the Rohingya reject – or leave. Several of the women I spoke to told me that the security forces searched for their husbands, who had been staying out of their houses in fear. They said that they had then been raped when their husbands were not found. I was horrified to be told by one woman that her 12 year old son had been chopped to pieces when he visited the family’s fish hatchery, after the family had been told by security forces that they could not go there unless they accepted the NVC. Such brutality, and to a child, is deplorable.

I also visited “No Man’s Land” between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Approximately 4,200 Rohingyas are living there, the majority of them are on the Myanmar side and approximately 20 percent on the Bangladeshi side. They told me about the difficulties they face. I saw Myanmar Border Guard posts that watch them from overlooking hills, and the reinforced barbed wire fence recently built by the Myanmar Government. Some of people’s homes are just 10 minutes from where they are sheltered now. They told me that each day, loudspeakers on the Myanmar side of the fence play a recording telling them that it is illegal for them to be there, and to leave, as well as playing recordings of Buddhist sermon. I also met with a young boy who was shot by the Myanmar border guard just a few days ago. He had been alone and looking for something in the grass, his friends having just returned to the camp after playing football. A single shot was fired from the Myanmar side and hit him in the hip. Targeting a child in such a way is an illegal and truly cowardly act, and must be strongly condemned.

In Cox’s Bazar, the refugees who have survived years of heinous violations and abuses in Rakhine State have been visited and interviewed by countless celebrities, high profile individuals, politicians, researchers, human rights organisations, journalists – the list goes on. While it is crucial to speak to the victims and human rights monitoring is essential, I was told by several victims that they have been repeatedly interviewed by multiple people. I am very concerned about this, and I would like to urge all international and national actors to treat the victims with dignity and not ask them to repeatedly recount traumatic experiences. They have endured some of the most horrific experiences and must not be continually exposed, re-victimised and re-traumatised, particularly without access to necessary psychosocial support.

As it is now clear that the Government of Myanmar has made no progress or shown any real will to dismantle the system of discrimination in the country’s laws, policies and practices, and to make northern Rakhine State safe, the Rohingya refugees will not be returning to Myanmar in the near future. There must therefore be a shift to medium and longer term planning in Cox’s Bazar. I am concerned that the humanitarian response remains in the emergency phase with the focus on providing basic assistance to the community. It is now time to work with the community so that it can assist itself – as it is more than capable of doing. It is not true that the community is leaderless and unable to speak for itself. During this mission, I met with impressive, inspiring, determined groups of emerging community leaders who are mobilising and clearly articulating their demands. These groups must be given space and support to develop so that they can meaningfully represent their communities in different fora, including in the humanitarian response, repatriation planning and implementation and in discussion of accountability options.

From my discussions with refugees and humanitarian actors, I see that there are three things that are urgently needed to ensure the future of Rohingya refugee community. First, education for all; this means girls and boys commensurate to beyond primary education to the maximum level possible, as well as older people who were denied education in Myanmar. Second, there must be access to meaningful livelihood opportunities and vocational training for women and men. Third, and critical to both of these issues and the ability for the Rohingya to live a dignified life, is freedom of movement. This is not just about being able to move from place to place, but is about freedom, humanity, being able to access services, receive medical treatment and fulfil basic personal needs like meeting relatives who live in other places. In other words, living a dignified life.

I commend the humanitarian community in Cox’s Bazar that is working tirelessly to support the refugees; the work they are doing is incredibly difficult and I am very impressed by their dedication. The Bangladesh government and its humanitarian partners have worked hard to reinforce the camp infrastructure and prepare for the monsoon. However, with the rain and cyclone season underway, the conditions are getting worse as a result of landslides and floods. While I was in the camps, I experienced both heavy rain and very hot weather. Needless to say, the monsoon and cyclones will return every year. Additionally, the camps are so severely and inhumanely overcrowded, I am very concerned about protection and gender based violence risks. I received very troubling reports of violence in the camps, allegations of trafficking of women and girls, domestic violence, exploitation and widespread sexual and gender based violence. As people continue to arrive, the congestion only increases, as do the risks to public and individual health. I urge all humanitarian actors to put protection and gender at the forefront of their work. The Bangladeshi authorities should also step up their efforts to address ongoing violence, trafficking and other forms of illegal activities in the camps that affect the lives and wellbeing of Rohingya refugees. These efforts must be consistent with international standards.

The Joint Response Plan (JRP) is only 26% funded; I appeal to the donors to step up and provide the funding that is urgently needed to move to medium and longer term planning. I was concerned to be told by disability organisations that inclusion of persons with disabilities is not a priority across all sectors in the JRP; this must be rectified if we are to live up to the principle of leaving no one behind. The international community should not forget the host community in Cox’s Bazar who have been sharing their resources with the Rohingya refugees, and resources should be also directed to support that community.

I understand that the Government of Bangladesh plans to relocate refugees from Cox’s Bazar to Bashan Char, an island that has recently appeared in the Bay of Bengal. I had requested the Government to facilitate a visit for me to see the conditions of the island. It was conveyed to me by the Bangladeshi officials that construction on the island is ongoing, and that my visit would only be possible after the rainy season. I am hoping to visit the island in near future to assess the conditions, the statement about visiting after the rainy season however concerns me greatly, as it indicates that access to the island is difficult or impossible during the monsoon time and raises many questions about the fate of those who may be sent there. As far as I understand, the United Nations and international humanitarian organisations have not carried out any technical or humanitarian assessment to determine whether the island is habitable for human beings. I am yet not aware whether and how the 100,000 refugees who it is said will be relocated will be chosen, how the movement of refugees in and out of the island will be facilitated, and how refugees will be able to access livelihood opportunities, health and education on a remote and isolated island.

A few weeks after hearing the news of signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of Myanmar, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), I sent a request to the Government of Myanmar through its Permanent Mission in Geneva for a copy of the MoU. They did not provide me with a copy but instead shared me with a summary that was prepared by one of the UN agencies. Over the last three weeks, I also made requests in person to senior officials of the United Nations, who despite promises, have not shared a copy of the MoU with me. The refugees I spoke with in Cox’s Bazar expressed their deep concerns, disappointment and anger over the lack of consultation on their fate. I expressed my dismay at the Human Rights Council over the lack of transparency on 27 of June. While I am not aware of the exact terms of the MoU, I am extremely concerned that it has been kept secret, including by the United Nations agencies involved, and urge the parties to make it public.

As I have previously said, talk now of repatriation is extremely premature. While in Cox’s Bazar I was told that there are plans for refugee consultation and discussion, but this is not enough. Refugee men, women and children must be given the opportunity to participate in all phases of the design and implementation of the repatriation operation, in accordance with UNHCR’s Handbook on Voluntary Repatriation. I reiterate that any involuntary and non-consultative return of refugees is against the principles of international law and must not take place.

I am further astonished by the lack of any meaningful progress regarding creating conditions in Myanmar for the return of refugees from other countries. While the situation of the Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar is extremely precarious and should continue to get urgent attention from the international community; the refugees from Myanmar who live in extreme harsh living and security conditions elsewhere including some neighbouring countries of Myanmar are equally entitled to a safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return to their homes of origin. During this mission, I spoke by phone to refugees from Myanmar in India who live in a state of fear and uncertainty, and with the threat of forced deportation by the Government of India. This situation has received little attention by the international community. UNHCR and other UN agencies responsible for the protection of refugees must step up their support to ensure protection and human dignity of the refugees in India who live in such a dreadful situation.

As I said earlier, enough is enough. Justice is a key demand of the Rohingya refugees I spoke to during my mission and of activists and civil society in Myanmar. Accountability for the atrocities committed is urgently needed, and must be delivered for all the people of Myanmar who suffered violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law. It is more than clear now unless the cycle of violence and persecution is broken, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law will continue in Myanmar. The enduring impunity must come to an end. When I presented to the Human Rights Council on 27 June, I proposed to establish an accountability mechanism for Myanmar. I am pleased to note that the High Commissioner for Human Rights has also called for an international accountability mechanism in line with my proposal. I urge the international community to come together without delay and establish the mechanism at the Human Rights Council session in September.

Let us stop for a moment and imagine the lives of the refugees – leaving their homes, cattle, rice paddies and living in the refugee camps. Everyday is a reminder of what happened in Myanmar, their home country, and their uncertain future.

Thank you for your attention

 

 

 

 

Myanmar: UN human rights expert to visit Bangladesh

Myanmar: UN human rights expert to visit Bangladesh

GENEVA (28 June 2018) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will visit Bangladesh from 29 June to 8 July to visit Dhaka and various locations in Cox’s Bazar, where the population who had fled from Myanmar are living in makeshift shelters.

Lee regrets that the Government of Myanmar continues to deny her access despite the call by the Human Rights Council for Myanmar to cooperate with her mandate.

She is determined to reach out as much as possible to victims of human rights abuses in Myanmar who are located elsewhere and other locations in order to learn more about their experience to understand better the human rights situation in Myanmar.

The Special Rapporteur is planning to spend several days in Dhaka meeting UN and Government officials and then travel to Cox’s Bazar where she intends to meet with UN agencies, the humanitarian and protection sector, health and GBV actors, NGOs and Government officials. She also intends to visit various other locations including to visit Bashan Char Island.

Following her visit to Bangladesh, the human rights expert will issue an end of mission statement and share her findings when she presents a report to the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in October 2018.

A press conference will be held at the end of the Special Rapporteur’s visit at 16.00 hrs on 8 July 2018 at hotel Le Meridien, Dhaka.

ENDS

Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page: Myanmar

For more information and media requests, please contact: Pradeep Wagle (+41 22 917 98 66 / pwagle@ohchr.org).  

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 9179383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)  

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org.

Tag and share – Twitter: @UNHumanRights and Facebook: unitednationshumanrights

 

Statement by U Myint Thu, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Delegation of Myanmar at the interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Myanmar at the 38 Session of Human Rights Council

Myanmar CC stmt 27 June 18

Statement by U Myint Thu, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Delegation of Myanmar at the interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Myanmar at the 38 Session of Human Rights Council Geneva, 27 June 2018

Travels by the Special Envoy for Myanmar, Ms. Christine Schraner Burgener

Note to Correspondents

Travels by the Special Envoy for Myanmar, Ms. Christine Schraner Burgener

Ms. Christine Schraner Burgener, who was appointed by the Secretary-General on 26 April as his Special Envoy on Myanmar, will be undertaking the first visit to Myanmar in her new capacity beginning on 12 June.

Pursuant to her General Assembly mandate, the Special Envoy’s consultations with a range of interlocutors including Myanmar authorities, ethnic armed organizations, civil society organizations, religious leaders and members of the diplomatic community will cover Rakhine state, peace process, democratization and human right issues.  Following her visit to Myanmar, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General plans to visit countries in the region including Bangladesh.

Right after she took up her new assignment on 16 May, the Special Envoy visited New York and Geneva for introductory consultations with the Secretary-General, other senior officials of the United Nations as well as with interested Member States and INGOs.

New York, 11 June 2018

Myanmar: too many children still in hazardous and unsafe forms of work

World Day Against Child Labour
Myanmar: too many children still in hazardous and unsafe forms of work

Some 600,000 of the 1 million child labourers in the country are involved in hazardous work.

Yangon (ILO News) – Almost one in ten of Myanmar’s 12 million children between the age of 5 and 17 are engaged in child labour, too often exposed to hazards and risks. Pushed by poverty, estranged from school, children enter the workforce with little awareness about occupational safety and health (OSH) rights and responsibilities, and therefore at high risk of fatal injuries.

There are over 600,000 Myanmar children engaged in hazardous work that harms their health, safety and morals.

From stretches of cultivated fields to teashops in the country’s economic capital of Yangon, most of Myanmar child labourers, as in the rest of the Asia-Pacific, are found in the informal economy.

Myanmar is facing up to the massive challenge of child labour and making it a national priority,” said Rory Mungoven, ILO Liaison Officer in Myanmar on the occasion of World Day against Child Labour, marked on June 12. “A first priority should be to keep children out of hazardous forms of work and improve the safety conditions for those young people who are working.”

Myanmar has ratified ILO Convention No.182 on the worst forms of child labour in December 2013, and with the assistance of the ILO, the Government is in the process of finalizing its first National Action Plan (NAP) on Child Labour, including the list of hazardous work prohibited to children under 18 as required by the Convention.

To ensure the finalization and implementation of the NAP, the Government has established in February 2018 the National Committee for the Eradication of Child Labour chaired by the Vice-President, with representatives of key ministries, workers’ and employers’ organizations, as well as the civil society.

We are making access to quality education a reality, strengthening the actions aimed at fighting child labour for young generations”, stressed U Nyunt Win, Director General of the Factories and General Labour Laws Inspection Department (FGLLID) of the Myanmar Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population speaking at the celebration of the World Day held in Yangon.

Ending child labour and promoting safe and healthy work for young people requires an integrated strategy and coordinated actions which include the following steps:

 

  • Children in child labour must be withdrawn from all forms of work for which they have not reached the minimum age, and be ensured access to quality education;
  • The list of hazardous child labour must be finalized, along with the new Child Rights Law;
  • Young workers should receive basic OSH training before being assigned to perform job tasks;
  • Young workers should be fully trained in their job tasks and provided appropriate on-the-job supervision;
  • The right of young workers to refuse to perform work that presents an imminent danger to their safety or health must be protected.

This year’s World Day Against Child Labour is celebrated in conjunction with the ILO’s campaign Generation Safe & Healthy, seeking to promote safety and health for young workers and end child labour. The campaign aims to accelerate action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 8.7 of ending all forms of child labour by 2025 and SDG 8.8 of safe and secure working environments for all workers by 2030.

The ILO’s work in Myanmar to achieve these goals is done through the Myanmar Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (My-PEC), and the SafeYouth@Work and Youth4OSH projects.

 

For media requests, please contact: Marco Minocri, Communications Consultant minocri@ilo.org

 

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