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UNHCR appeals for protection of Rohingya currently trapped on Myanmar-Bangladesh border

UNHCR appeals for protection of Rohingya currently trapped on Myanmar-Bangladesh border

05 March 2018

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned about the safety of a group of vulnerable Rohingya women, men, and children from Myanmar, who have been living in a so-called “no man’s land” near the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh since the end of August 2017. UNHCR is closely following the developments after they were reportedly ordered to vacate the area by the Myanmar authorities.

UNHCR underscores that everyone has the right to seek asylum, just as they also have the right to return home when they deem the time and circumstances right. People who have fled violence in their country must be granted safety and protection and any decision to return must be voluntary and based upon a free and informed choice.

UNHCR also reiterates that conditions are not yet conducive to the return of Rohingya refugees. The causes of their flight have not been addressed and we have yet to see substantive progress on addressing the denial of their rights. Pursuing the conditions that will address these causes and enable their voluntary and sustainable return is critical.

In this regard, UNHCR continues to request to the Government of Myanmar to allow humanitarian access to UNHCR and partners throughout Rakhine State. This will be essential to promote coexistence among all of communities; to support the government towards their commitment to implement the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s (RAC) recommendations; and for UNHCR to monitor protection conditions, provide independent information to refugees, and accompany returns as and when they take place.

In Bangladesh, the Government and people continue to generously receive refugees and to provide them with protection and support. Nearly 700,000 refugees have now sought refuge in the country since violence broke out in the northern part of Myanmar’s Rakhine State in late August of 2017.

Remarks at the Development Effectiveness Roundtable in Nay Pyi Taw, Knut Ostby – UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ai

Participants at the Development Effectiveness Roundtable in Nay Pyi Taw.  Photo by Pablo Barrera

Knut Ostby

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ai

Remarks at the Development Effectiveness Roundtable in Nay Pyi Taw

26 February 2018

Mingalabar. I’m speaking on behalf of the Cooperation Partners Group or CPG. We welcome today’s Roundtable as an opportunity for an interactive dialogue about sustainable development of Myanmar.

Congratulations – the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan, the Development Assistance Policy, and the Sector Coordination Groups – are solid substantive documents fitting with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the SDGs. We look forward to working with Government translating words to action. We welcome and appreciate consultation on new strategies and policies and the inclusion of colleagues from local and international civil society.

Development Assistance Policy (DAP)

Thank you for allowing us to comment on the Development Assistance Policy – we hope our comments were useful. We look forward to reviewing the final version with the full annexes, templates and procedures, and giving feedback on these.

It is well received that it’s a living document we can adjust in light of implementation experiences. We look forward to joining the DAP Working Group.

We hope that we will end up with clear, streamlined, and predictable procedures and workable thresholds that give the flexibility needed to respond to existing implementation constraints so that we can deliver more efficient and effective support. It is often administrative barriers, such as approvals for visas and Memoranda of Understanding, that have a disproportionately large effect on our work.

We welcome recognition of the important role of local and international civil society.

Lastly, we appreciate the presence of representatives of States and Regions which demonstrates a broad consultative process and support for the Plan and policies.

Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP)

We welcome the Plan’s objectives of inclusive development and transformational growth as well as its vision of strengthening state institutions and improving infrastructure.

We applaud the grounding in international and regional commitments including the SDGs and human rights.

We welcome the ambition in terms of the number of actions but understand this needs to be matched with implementation capacity and thus streamlining and sequencing may be necessary.

We are pleased to see the intention to increase climate resilience and lay the ground for environmentally sustainable growth, including scaling up the use of renewable energy resources.

We recognise that both natural and human-made disasters can pose a significant challenge to development and therefore it is very heartening to see several references to disaster risk reduction. We would encourage that these be broadened to include resilience in the private sector and that they are more explicitly linked to the Myanmar Action Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction.

We are keen to see alignment with existing sector plans as well as linkages across sectors. We believe the upcoming consultation with Line Ministries will be important to ensure against overlap in implementing and monitoring functions and to clearly designate lead agencies.

We welcome commitments to promote justice and the rule of law, including strengthening the independence of the judiciary. We agree that improving vetting of draft laws and overall capacity to draft legislation is key. We also believe it is important to review and amend current legislation, including the penal code, where it is vague and unclear or gives too much discretion to the executive.  Tackling corruption in the justice system and the judiciary remains a priority concern.

We would urge deeper and more meaningful integration of gender equality and women’s rights into the Plan, as well as a stronger focus on human rights, democratisation, education, labour market issues, human-made disasters and, last but not least, the critical role of local and international civil society.

We are glad to see the importance ascribed to the peace process. Cooperation Partners are willing to provide support on this complex issue which is key for the sustainable development of the country. We note that care may be needed on some issues mentioned in the Plan which are actually already agreed in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and interim arrangements. The Plan’s statement that federalism should be adhered to “within the scope of the existing Constitution” seems to contradict the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement for example. We welcome the focus on promoting increased economic activity in conflict-affected communities, where this is managed with the “do no harm” principle in mind.

We note the emphasis on leveraging different sources of funding including the private sector. We would just urge that this is accompanied by proper regulation and oversight.

The Plan puts an admirable stress on transparency and accountability, strengthening public consultations on policy making, and improving access to information.

Overall, Cooperation Partners are compiling detailed comments to share during the formal consultation process and look forward to hearing more on time frames, prioritisation, funding, monitoring, and involvement of Parliament. One option would be to align the Plan to the 2030 SDG timeframe.

It will understandable if the consultation process cannot be completed by Thingyan given how vital a wide and deep consultation is for the Plan. We urge inclusion of local and international civil society in these consultations.

Finally and above all, we look forward to working closely with you to implement the Plan.

Rakhine State

Let me please make a few comments on Rakhine State. We have advocated for three points of the UN Secretary-General:



  • to ensure safety and security for all communities;
  • to provide a meaningful access for humanitarian agencies, Cooperation Partners, local and international NGOs, and the media; and
  • to make sure the return of refugees is voluntary, safe, dignified, sustainable and to their places of origin.

In line with the Arrangement between Myanmar and Bangladesh and the statements by the Secretary-General, we also encourage the Government to engage UNHCR and other UN agencies in repatriation.

We note that the MSDP makes reference to the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. This Commission called for an economically prosperous, safe and secure Rakhine State, where all communities enjoy human rights and freedoms. The Commission requested the Government to declare its readiness to aid all people, irrespective of ethnicity, religion and citizenship status – on the basis of fairness and equity. As you know we have advocated for full implementation of the Commission’s recommendations and hence we are pleased to see the reference in the Plan.


The international community in Myanmar remains prepared to provide necessary assistance towards implementing long-term solutions to the root causes of the crisis in Rakhine State. The UN signed last week in Nay Pyi Taw agreements with Japan totalling $20 million for projects that will reach with humanitarian and development aid half a million people of all communities in Rakhine State.

Let me close by again welcoming this Roundtable, the Development Assistance Policy, the draft sustainable development plan, and the Sector Coordination Groups. We urge you to apply the plans and policies country-wide so that everyone can benefit from development. We hope to work with you on achieving your vision of a poverty-free, prosperous and democratic Myanmar, with a focus on human rights and rule of law and peace for everyone. Chay Zu Tin Bah De.

Statement by H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations Briefing to the United Nations Security Council

Statement by H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon8th Secretary-General of the United Nations

Briefing to the United Nations Security Council

On the Purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations in the

maintenance of the international peace and security

New York, 21 February, 2018, 10:00


H.E. Mr. Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait,

H.E. Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Distinguished Members of the Security Council,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As this is the first time for me to be back at the United Nations and address this Council, as former Secretary-General of the United Nations, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the President of the Security Council, H.E. Mr. Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, for inviting me to take part in this important meeting. I also commend the Government of Kuwait for its successful Presidency of the Security Council in the month of February.


The world we live in today is completely different from what it was seven decades ago, when the United Nations was founded.

 While we have seemingly moved on from the era of large-scale war between States, today we face an increasing number of emerging global challenges. These include climate change, tens of millions of refugees, violent extremism, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation, to name just a few.

At the same time, the fourth industrial revolution represented by enormous technological advancements such as AI, nano-technology, and biological engineering, has brought dramatic changes to the shape and form of our daily lives. They will also have a significant impact on the security environment of the future world.

Under these dramatically changing circumstances of today’s world, some are questioning the role and effectiveness of the United Nations as a whole.

These critics, however, may also agree that without the United Nations, the international community could have never succeeded in preventing another world war in the past 70 plus years.

Furthermore, if it were not for the United Nations, the international community would not have been able to make significant gains on eradicating extreme poverty, promoting public health, and scaling-up access to education. Who else would have been able to provide legitimacy for the actions that the Security Council takes in addressing conflicts today?

The primary responsibilities vested in the Security Council to maintain international peace and security therefore are needed now more than ever.

In this regard, I value the Council’s improved working relations with the other interconnected pillars of the United Nations system and also its increased focus on the concept of “sustaining peace.” Addressing the root causes of conflict and working towards preventing conflicts before they escalate, alongside national and international stakeholders, will ultimately make the Council, and the Organization, stronger as a result.  

In order to effectively respond to non-traditional and transnational security challenges such as climate change, terrorism and violent extremism, nuclear proliferation, and cross-border insecurity, the Security Council should undergo reforms to be more flexible in its decision-making process. Reform of the Security Council is long overdue.

We must also remind ourselves of the fact that the primary responsibility of preserving peace and security lies with Member States themselves.

The failure of some national leaders to fulfill their responsibilities to their own people significantly undermines the role of the United Nations in resolving conflicts. This can also lead to some Member States neglecting their responsibility to protect their own citizens while hiding behind the concepts of national ownership and state sovereignty.

Those political leaders often create dire political and economic instabilities where innocent civilians bear the bulk of the suffering.

We have learned by now that in order to hold such leaders accountable, the Security Council should not limit itself to simply calling for actions in rhetoric or statements. The Council must act on those situations.

Mr. President, having said this, I would like to touch on several international and regional conflicts.

In the Middle East and Africa, we must now be prepared for the post-ISIS era.

The Security Council must focus more on northern Syria, the ongoing civil war in Syria, tension in the Golan Heights, and the continuing Syrian IDP (Internally Displaced People) and refugee crisis. These issues could resurface, seriously threaten regional stability, and instigate further conflicts among states in the region.

Such instability could lead to exacerbating tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and bring Israel and Iran closer to direct conflict.

Violence between the Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and other regional threats could also have the potential to spin out of control as a result of deteriorating regional security.

Additionally, we cannot dismiss the possibility of ISIS, after losing its territories of terror in the Middle East, moving on to settle in vulnerable places such as Libya.

The division among GCC Member States is also of serious concern. In this regard, I highly commend the mediating role played by H.H. Sheik Jaber Ahmad Al-Jabed Al Sabah, Emir of Kuwait.

Exposure to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism is especially alarming in places like the Sahel region in Africa. 

As extreme poverty, terrorism, the illicit arms trade, and human trafficking are all prevalent in a volatile cross-border environment; we must bolster our collective actions to address such vulnerabilities.

During my tenure as UN Secretary-General, I established the ‘United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel’ in June 2013 to address such issues. I am pleased to see that Secretary-General António Guterres, the Security Council, and the Peacebuilding Commission are working in triangular cooperation to advance this important effort.

Towards the end of my second term as Secretary-General, in April 2016, the Security Council and the General Assembly adopted twin resolutions on the Review of United Nations Peacebuilding Architecture. These resolutions expressed deep concern about the high human cost and suffering caused by armed conflict.

Today, not only international peace and security issues remain at a critical juncture, but multilateralism is at stake as well.

We must remember that multilateralism cannot be upheld by only one Member State or a group of states. The United Nations, especially the Security Council, must continue to endeavor to strengthen this driving ideal; overcoming whatever challenges may loom over the horizon.

I must emphasize in this regard that the entire United Nations membership should faithfully and thoroughly implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change while coping with other new challenges including, among others, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

In this connection, I believe, as Secretary-General Guterres has stated, that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is our most serious and imminent challenge at this time.              

Mr. President,

As we all know, the Korean Peninsula today is faced with serious challenges as a result of continued nuclear tests and long range ballistic missile launches conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

At the end of 2017, the DPRK announced its “completion of state nuclear force” and proclaimed itself as a “nuclear state.”

This is a serious threat to international peace and security and also a clear violation of all relevant Security Council resolutions and the NPT regime.

In fact, the Security Council has responded with tough measures, including increasingly stronger sanctions to deter the DPRK’s nuclear development. Six of the ten different resolutions adopted since its first nuclear test in 2006 were adopted in the past two years alone.

The firm and unified actions by the Security Council will be essential until the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and programs is realized.

In this regard, I urge the authorities of the DPRK to fully abide by the relevant Security Council resolutions. At the same time, I urge all the UN Member States to do their part to help resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through diplomatic efforts.  

Only when we seek solutions to all these problems through peaceful means, can we uphold the principles and purposes enshrined in the UN Charter.

In this regard, the participation of North Korean athletes in the 23rd Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea has drawn much hope and expectations around the world.

I warmly welcome the recent resumption of inter-Korean dialogue and the resulting reconciliatory atmosphere between the two Koreas created before and during the Olympic Games.

We must keep alive this hard-won momentum for dialogue so that the narrow window of opportunity provided by this newly created momentum will be able to lead to a more meaningful and genuine dialogue process of reconciliation, peace and ultimate denuclearization of North Korea. The denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula would also help spur the establishment of wider peace and stability in Northeast Asia, thus creating a stage for greater regional development and prosperity.

This process also requires whole-hearted support of the United Nations and I count on the Security Council in moving the whole process towards this end. We need genuine and strong commitment of both South and North Korea to engage in dialogue supported by the US, China, Japan and Russia.

Current reconciliatory atmosphere must be nurtured by continuing engagement of both South and North Korean authorities. The United States can also play a crucially important role in engaging with North Korea as was suggested by President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Council Members,

Throughout my years as Secretary-General, I have witnessed the unique power of sports in contributing to peace and development in many places around the world. I am happy to have seen such positive energy once again in my country during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

In this regard, I would like to commend Mr. Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, for his visionary leadership in facilitating the North Korean athletes’ participation in the Games, in particular the joint women’s ice-hockey team.

Once again, Mr. President, I would like to thank the President and the members of the Security Council and the Presidency of Kuwait for inviting me to address the Council. I look forward to an active exchange of thoughts and ideas during today’s debate.

Thank you. Shukran Jajilan.

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

 Seoul, 1 February 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to address you this afternoon. It is quite unusual for me to hold this press conference here, in a country not related to my mandate as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. However, these are unusual circumstances in the discharge of my mandate. For the first time since I was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council I have not been given access to the country I am responsible for reporting on.

The Government of Myanmar has taken the unfortunate decision to no longer cooperate with me, claiming that I have been unfair and biased. They took particular issue with my previous end-of-mission statement – following my last visit to Myanmar in July 2017. I would invite all of you to re-read that end-of-mission statement. You will note that I have highlighted the human rights situation of not just the Rohingya in respect of Rakhine State but of the Rakhine and Kaman communities too. I also highlighted the situation of the Karen as well as the Shan, and the increasing restrictions on democratic space, and continuing harassment and intimidation of human rights activists and journalists, including through frivolous criminal charges.

In that statement, I expressed my disappointment at seeing that the repressive practices applied by the previous military Government are still used by the NLD-led Government. Indeed, the latest decision to deny me access to the country is a return to the situation that my predecessors faced under the military government – reporting on the human rights situation in Myanmar from abroad.

Before I proceed further, let me take this opportunity to thank the governments of Bangladesh and Thailand as well as the UN entities in both countries for facilitating my visits. It has always been important for me to be able to engage directly with the people of Myanmar and not just with the authorities, as they are the ones whose voices need to be heard. In Bangladesh, I went to Dhaka but I spent most of my time around Cox’s Bazar where I met Rohingya refugees in a number of camps and settlements.

In Thailand, I met refugees, human rights activists, journalists and representatives of ethnic groups in Bangkok, Mae Sot and Chiang Mai. I sought to meet affected ethnic communities in what the Thai Government refer to as temporary shelters for displaced persons from Myanmar at the border between the two countries but I was denied access.

From my meetings and interaction in Bangladesh and Thailand, three recurrent themes struck me.

First: belonging – the people I met all gave me the distinct sense that they are dislocated from where they belong. Myanmar is their home; it is where their parents and grandparents were born; where they built their homes, and farmed their land. Yet they have been displaced – in many cases for years, even generations – left living in camps with little or no access to basic rights – the rights to livelihood, education, and health. Even for those who were treated as aliens when they were in Myanmar, it is still where they belong and where they long to return. Sadly, the conditions are such that they do not know what to expect if they return, or are forced to do so—many even fear for their lives.

Second: equality – a need for recognition and equal treatment. The majority of those I met are from ethnic minority groups of Myanmar. They demand not only equal rights as individuals but also recognition of parity for all ethnic groups. They are not asking for the benevolence of the government; they are insisting on equal treatment, collectively and as individuals.

Third: and this is the most distressing recurring theme – attacks against ethnic minorities are not a new phenomenon. The atrocities committed against the Rohingya in the aftermath of the 9 October 2016 and the 25 August 2017 attacks have been – as highlighted by the Karen National Union in its statement last year marking the two-year anniversary of the nationwide ceasefire agreement – repeatedly witnessed before, albeit not on the same scale of the recent attacks against the Rohingya. I was told repeatedly by the other ethnic groups I spoke to – be they Kachin, Karen, Karenni, or Shan – that they have suffered the same horrific violations at the hands of the Tatmadaw over several decades and – in the case of some groups – continuing today.

What the Myanmar government claims to be the conduct of military or security operations is actually an established pattern of domination, aggression and violations against ethnic groups. Recent reports of attacks against civilians; against homes and places of worship; forcible displacement and relocation; the burning of villages; land grabbing; sexual violence; arbitrary arrests and detention; torture and enforced disappearances; are acts that have been alleged against the military and security forces for generations. While reports from Rakhine State have rightly provoked international outrage; for many in Myanmar, they have elicited a tragic feeling of déjà vu.

In Thailand, representatives from different ethnic groups that I met expressed their concern that as the world’s attention is focused on the atrocities in Rakhine State, potential war crimes are being committed in Shan and Kachin State without so much as a murmur of disapproval from the international community.

Many of you may be unaware that over the Christmas period and into the New Year, clashes between the Tatmadaw and Ethnic Armed Groups occurred in both Shan and Kachin states, resulting in the deaths of civilians and driving thousands of people from their homes. In fact, attacks continued last week, with airstrikes carried out by the Tatmadaw reportedly killing four civilians. The fallout from these attacks has been truly grave. I spoke to a Kachin woman who told me that her relatives are among a civilian group believed to number in the thousands that are taking cover from these attacks in a forest in an isolated area of Tanai township that is reachable only by water. Cut off from the outside world by the fighting, her sister-in-law gave birth to a little baby girl in the forest just a few days ago, where they both remain. I do hope that both the mother and the baby, as well as the rest of the civilian group, are holding up as well as they can in these grave circumstances.

Violence on such a scale has lasting effects. During my visit to Thailand, I spoke with people who fled similar acts years, even decades, ago. They have lived since in so-called “temporary” shelters, unable to enjoy their basic human rights, where they are once again faced with a perilous situation. Karen refugees told me that the humanitarian assistance they depend on is declining, while Shan refugees informed me that their aid has been cut by foreign donors entirely. This is occurring in a context where people are being encouraged to return home despite feeling that it is premature or unsafe to do so. They are left to choose between empty stomachs on the Thai side of the border and a return to a precarious peace on the Myanmar side and the risk of being made refugees all over again.

On the topic of peace, January has come and gone without the convening of the 21st Century Panglong Conference. During my mission, I was told by people of different ethnicities that the peace process is floundering largely because of the failure of the military and the government to earn the trust of ethnic groups, and what they see as a lack of a genuine commitment to peace on the part of officials. The Tatmadaw has reportedly prevented public consultations taking place between ethnic armed groups and their constituents while the government appears to be concerned only with reconciling with the military, rather than with the ethnic groups.

Most disturbingly, peace agreements that are already in place are failing to prevent violence, most notably in the case of the recent deaths of one civilian and three soldiers of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), who were shot dead by Tatmadaw on 20 December. While the Tatmadaw claims that the four were killed in a shootout with the KNPP, the KNPP say they were summarily executed. The allegation must be investigated by an independent and impartial body; if proven true, it would amount to a violation of international humanitarian law.

Set against this background of violence in the ethnic areas of Myanmar, is a continuing erosion of democratic space. The civilian government has failed to usher in a new era of openness and transparency and is instead persisting with repressive practices of the past. I was deeply saddened to learn that nine Rakhine Buddhist demonstrators were killed in Mrauk U last month and by reports that other injured demonstrators were arrested in hospital where they were handcuffed to their beds. This is truly shameful and cruel. While preparing this statement, I learned that the Mrauk U administrator was killed in an apparent revenge attack – a grisly reminder that violence begets violence.

Other tactics are also being employed to curtail freedom of peaceful assembly. I was surprised to learn that at least 40 university students have been expelled in the last week for taking part in protests calling for an increase in the education budget. Given the NLD’s connections with generations of student activists, I would have thought that it would fiercely protect the rights of students to speak out, rather than silence their voices.

Journalists are faring no better. I have been informed that since the arrests of Irrawaddy and DVB journalists who attended a drug burning ceremony in Shan State last year, journalists are fearful of travelling to ethnic areas to report on events in non-government controlled regions in ways that may provoke the ire of the government. Since the conviction of two Kachin Baptist pastors in October 2017, people are also too afraid to speak to the media. The two had allegedly helped journalists report on a potential war crime committed by the Tatmadaw in November 2016 in Kachin State. The result is a culture of fear, silence and self-censorship, and a situation where the public only get to hear the government or military version of events.

Despite these obstacles, some journalists have courageously continued their work. In December last year, Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone were arrested having travelled to Rakhine to investigate a massacre by the Tatmadaw. Of all the deaths that occurred in Rakhine after 25 August, the military has only accepted responsibility for ten – the ten in Inn Din village – and that may be due to the work of these two brave men. Their fearless work highlights the absolutely invaluable role of independent journalism. I remain deeply perplexed and concerned that they remain in detention despite the military having admitted responsibility for the killings at Inn Din. To say that their prosecution is under “the rule of law” is no excuse for spurious charges; they should be released immediately and the charges against them must be dropped. As I and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression have stated previously, “journalism is not a crime”.

This brings me to my visit in Bangladesh. During this visit to Cox’s Bazar, I saw a completely different landscape than in my first visit in February 2017. No amount of videos, photographs or news footage can prepare you for witnessing in-person the immensity of the camps and gravity of the loss and suffering experienced by the Rohingya population. I was particularly shocked when I looked over the Kutapalong-Balukhali settlement expansion where nearly 600,000 people live, and saw the densely packed tarpaulin and bamboo shelters built by incredibly resilient refugees that stretch beyond the horizon. The number of those who fled from Rakhine State since 25 August 2017 currently stands at 688,000, and still there are reports of new arrivals.

In each of the camps and settlements I visited were Rohingya who came from various areas of northern Rakhine. While I listened to each unique and horrific experience, the recurring themes I mentioned earlier – the sense that people have been wrenched from where they belong; their demands for equality; and that tragic sense of déjà vu, that this violence was not new – struck me again and again.

I met over 100 refugees during my time in Bangladesh. I listened as Imams stoically struggled through accounts of their villages being attacked until they broke down when revealing that their children were killed – either burned alive or shot by Myanmar security forces. I spoke to someone who is the only surviving member of his family following the widely documented massacre at Tula Toli. Through anguish and tears he told me how the military came and called him and his family out of their homes, and then gathered and surrounded them. “[They] started shooting, so we huddled closer together—women were taken to rooms in houses, raped and killed. Then they lit everything on fire – my baby son was thrown into the fire. My wife was killed.”  I listened to a grandmother who fled with her daughter-in-law and young children. Her 3-year-old grandson witnessed the slaughtering of his father. The little boy described seeing what no child should ever have to witness – “they chopped my father”.

The Government of Bangladesh has continued to be generous in their response in all sectors despite having limited resources themselves. Particularly I want to draw attention to the people of Bangladesh – the communities of Cox’s Bazar – they have shown the world the definition of humanity as they continue, despite their own hardships, to host and exhibit compassion for the Rohingya people.

During my visit, it became clear to me that the Rohingya population will not be moving from Bangladesh any time soon, and this led to serious concerns about what will happen to them when the rains start in just two months. A day of rain could trigger landslides and flood lowlands decimating shelters, and could lead to casualties. International partners stand ready to support the Government of Bangladesh in preparing and responding to the cyclone and monsoon season. But failure to act decisively now will result in a disaster within a disaster for the Rohingya: adequate land and resources must be made available to mitigate the worst.

Talks of repatriation at this time are clearly premature. While the government of Bangladesh made it clear to me that no refugees would be forced back to Myanmar, I remain concerned about whether any safeguards exist to ensure that any returns are truly voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable. I saw great anxiety and fear when I spoke to refugees about the prospect of returning to Myanmar. One mother said to me, “Our beautiful children were slaughtered, how can we go back?” Refugees have been entirely excluded from conversations about their fate, and going forward they must be involved in a meaningful way. The majority of Rohingya I spoke to clearly state they want to go home but only if they can return to a home where they are recognized as Rohingya, have rights as citizens, and can live in their place of origin without fear of being attacked.

Creating a conducive environment depends on the Myanmar government, and my discussions with different stakeholders, together with information I have received about the current situation in Rakhine, lead me to doubt that they are sincere and genuinely engaged in doing so. This is shown by their continued refusal to engage with UNHCR, including giving full access to northern Rakhine. And further, their request to extradite 1,311 named Rohingyas whom they allege are terrorists. The Myanmar authorities have even gone so far as to publish this list online and in state newspapers with pictures of those named – in clear violation of their rights to due process – contributing further to the climate of fear. Myanmar is keeping the world in the dark, and the international community appears unwilling to challenge the government of Myanmar under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi.

I note the statement recently made by the Chair of the Advisory Board to the Committee for Implementation of the Recommendations on Rakhine State mentioning that the villagers His Excellency had met did not seem to have any fear. It is unfortunate that HE Prof. Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai was unavailable to meet with me in Bangkok. If we had met I would have asked if he and the Board intend to make a visit to Cox’s Bazar to ask the refugees there if they have any fear of returning; whether they trust the very institution that they say had perpetrated violence against them to provide security if they return;  and what is the Board’s view of the provision in the Bangladesh-Myanmar repatriation agreement, which imposes on returnees National Verification Cards – contrary to the voluntary nature of the citizenship verification process called for by the Kofi Annan Commission.

Throughout my mission, in Bangladesh and in Thailand, I was heartened by the words of encouragement I have received. People from Myanmar of different backgrounds and ethnicities – be they refugees, journalists, human rights defenders or political activists – expressed their regret and disappointment that I have been denied entry to Myanmar and the space to continue what they see as crucial work in the promotion and protection of human rights in their country. I hope that I will gain access again soon; I remain ready to work with the government and other stakeholders to promote and protect the human rights of all people of Myanmar.

After two weeks hearing accounts of suffering that has spanned a period of decades, it is difficult to sum up all my thoughts in this statement. In concluding, I would like to return to the three themes that recurred throughout my time in Bangladesh and Thailand:

People from Myanmar who are in Bangladesh and Thailand must be able to return home; to where they belong. For returns to be ever realized in a way that is voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable they must be treated as equals – citizens of Myanmar with all the rights that the status affords. The situation is clearly not safe for Rohingya to return now but if the process is delayed indefinitely and the facts on the ground in Rakhine State change irreversibly, there may be nothing for them to return to. The international community needs to pressure Myanmar to create conditions for return before it is too late. This must be done in a principled way that prioritizes the need for these people to be recognized as Rohingya and as citizens of Myanmar.

Without equality, Myanmar will never be free from violence and the country’s tragic déjà vu will reverberate through the future as it has through the past. The cycle of violence must end, and Myanmar must be supported in implementing the profound and meaningful reforms that are so urgently needed. The democratic government can take the first step to a more hopeful future for Myanmar by making a break with the repressive practices of the past.

Thank you for your attention.


Annex – List of Meetings Held & Areas Visited

 BANGLADESH (Dhaka, Cox’s Bazar)

Government Officials

  • Foreign Secretary, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-Generals for United Nations, International Organizations and South-East Asia
  • Home Secretary
  • Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner
  • Cox’s Bazar Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner
  • Border Guard of Bangladesh, Brigadier General
  • Army of Bangladesh, Major General


  • United Nations Resident Coordinator, United Nations Country Team, and Strategic Executive Group in Dhaka
  • UN, INGOs & NGOs providing support and assistance in Cox’s Bazar
  • Representatives of the diplomatic community

Camps & Settlements visited

  • Domdomia village (refugees living among host community)
  • Nayapara refugee camp
  • Uchiprang refugee camp
  • Lambashia area
  • Kutapalong-Balukhali Expansion Site

(refugee camp/existing & makeshift settlements)

THAILAND (Bangkok, Mae Sot, Chiang Mai)

  • Government Officials
  • United Nations representatives
  • Representatives of ethnic-based groups
  • Representatives of non-governmental organizations and other actors working on Myanmar human rights issues including rights of refugees and IDPs; freedom of expression and freedom of assembly; women’s rights and gender issues; environmental issues; business and human rights; land rights and environment; health; human rights issues related to conflict and the peace process, and humanitarian situation


Statement on United Nations participation in Myanmar government meetings on health services on 21 January in Sittwe

Statement on United Nations participation in Myanmar government meetings on health services on 21 January in Sittwe

24th January 2018

Several UN agencies were invited to join internal meetings between the Union and State governments in Sittwe on Sunday, 21 January. The discussions covered the extension of Sittwe hospital; the provision of health services on the outskirts of Thet Kel Pyin IDP camp which is designated for closure as part of the implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations; and the provision of health care for returnees, especially pregnant women, mothers and children.

Throughout these discussions, the UN stressed the need for refugees to be consulted and properly informed about what health services they may receive. The UN also emphasized that the return must be voluntary, safe, dignified and to the areas of origin.

The UN in Myanmar remains prepared to work with the government towards finding a long-term solution to this crisis in the interest of all communities in Rakhine State.

UN Myanmar – Statement on Situation in Mrauk-U

The United Nations in Myanmar is following with concern the reports of violent clashes between the police and protesters in Mrauk U in Rakhine State. We deplore the loss of life and injuries that have been reported. We urge respect for the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and call for the security forces and demonstrators to act with restraint and to avoid further violence. We urge authorities to investigate any disproportionate use of force or other illegal actions that may have occurred in relation to this incident.

ရခိုင္ျပည္နယ္ ေျမာက္ဦးၿမိဳ႔တြင္ ဆႏၵျပသူမ်ားႏွင့္ ရဲတပ္ဖြဲ႔၀င္မ်ားအၾကား ျဖစ္ပြားသည့္ အၾကမ္းဖက္ ထိေတြ႔မႈသတင္းမ်ားအေပၚတြင္ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံရွိ ကုလသမဂၢအဖြဲ႔အစည္းမွ စိုးရိမ္စြာျဖင့္ ေစာင့္ၾကည့္ ေလ့လာလွ်က္ရွိပါသည္။ မိမိတို႔အေနျဖင့္ ၾကားသိရသည့္ အသက္ဆုံး႐ႈံးမႈႏွင့္ ထိခိုက္ဒဏ္ရာရရွိမႈမ်ားအတြက္ ၀မ္းနည္းရပါသည္။ လြတ္လပ္စြာေျပာဆိုေရးသားခြင့္ႏွင့္ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းစြာစုေ၀းခြင့္ တို႔အား ေလးစားၾကရန္ မိမိတို႔အေနျဖင့္ တိုက္တြန္းၿပီး၊ အၾကမ္းဖက္မႈမ်ား ဆက္လက္မျဖစ္ပြားေစရန္အတြက္ လုံျခဳံေရးတပ္ဖြဲ႔၀င္မ်ား ႏွင့္ ဆႏၵျပသူမ်ား အေနျဖင့္ သတိျပဳထိန္းသိမ္းေဆာင္ရြက္သြားရန္ ေတာင္းဆိုအပ္ပါသည္။ ဤျဖစ္စဥ္ႏွင့္ပတ္သက္ျပီးမတန္တရာ အင္အားသုံးေျဖရွင္း ျခင္း သို႔မဟုတ္ အျခားတရားမ၀င္ လုပ္ေဆာင္မႈမ်ား ရွိေနပါက စုံစမ္းပါရန္ တာ၀န္ရွိသူမ်ားအား တိုက္တြန္းအပ္ပါသည္။

ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ် မြောက်ဦးမြို့တွင် ဆန္ဒပြသူများနှင့် ရဲတပ်ဖွဲ့ဝင်များအကြား ဖြစ်ပွားသည့် အကြမ်းဖက် ထိတွေ့မှုသတင်းများအပေါ်တွင် မြန်မာနိုင်ငံရှိ ကုလသမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့အစည်းမှ စိုးရိမ်စွာဖြင့် စောင့်ကြည့် လေ့လာလျှက်ရှိပါသည်။ မိမိတို့အနေဖြင့် ကြားသိရသည့် အသက်ဆုံးရှုံးမှုနှင့် ထိခိုက်ဒဏ်ရာရရှိမှုများအတွက် ၀မ်းနည်းရပါသည်။ လွတ်လပ်စွာပြောဆိုရေးသားခွင့်နှင့် ငြိမ်းချမ်းစွာစုဝေးခွင့် တို့အား လေးစားကြရန် မိမိတို့အနေဖြင့် တိုက်တွန်းပြီး၊ အကြမ်းဖက်မှုများ ဆက်လက်မဖြစ်ပွားစေရန်အတွက် လုံခြုံရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့ဝင်များ နှင့် ဆန္ဒပြသူများ အနေဖြင့် သတိပြုထိန်းသိမ်းဆောင်ရွက်သွားရန် တောင်းဆိုအပ်ပါသည်။ ဤဖြစ်စဉ်နှင့်ပတ်သက်ပြီးမတန်တရာ အင်အားသုံးဖြေရှင်း ခြင်း သို့မဟုတ် အခြားတရားမဝင် လုပ်ဆောင်မှုများ ရှိနေပါက စုံစမ်းပါရန် တာဝန်ရှိသူများအား တိုက်တွန်းအပ်ပါသည်။

Myanmar: UN human rights chief calls for international criminal investigation of perpetrators of violence against Rohingya

Myanmar: UN human rights chief calls for international criminal investigation of perpetrators of violence against Rohingya   

GENEVA (5 December 2017) –The UN human rights chief on Tuesday condemned “widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal” attacks against the Rohingya, as well as decades of discrimination and persecution.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the current situation of the minority Rohingya Muslim population in northern Rakhine State “to take the appropriate action to stop this madness now”. He asked: “How much do people have to endure before their suffering is acknowledged and their identity and rights are recognised, by their government and by the world?”

The High Commissioner urged the Council to consider making a recommendation to the UN General Assembly that it establish a new impartial and independent mechanism, complementary to the work of the Fact-Finding Mission into the latest wave of violence and abuses, to assist individual criminal investigations of those responsible.

He said that given the decades of statelessness imposed on the Rohingya, policies of dehumanising discrimination and segregation, and the horrific violence and abuse, along with the forced displacement and systematic destruction of villages, homes, property and livelihoods – “can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?”

“Ultimately, this is a legal determination only a competent court can make,” he told the Council. “But the concerns are extremely serious, and clearly call for access to be immediately granted for further verification.”

By 2 December, an estimated 626,000 refugees – or more than half the estimated number of Rohingya living in Rakhine State – had fled to Bangladesh since October 2016, and particularly since August 2017. The Myanmar Government has said its latest campaign in northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by insurgents.

Zeid said his Office had sent three teams to Bangladesh this year to monitor the situation and interview refugees. He said witnesses reported acts of appalling barbarity committed against the Rohingya, including deliberately burning people to death inside their homes; murders of children and adults; indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians; widespread rapes of women and girls; and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques.

Zeid said he had reported to both the Human Rights Council and the Security Council about the persistent allegations of serious human rights violations by security forces. Yet, he added, prosecutions for alleged acts of violence against them, including sexual violence – whether committed by security forces or civilians – appeared to be extremely rare.

“Refusal by international as well as local actors to even name the Rohingyas as Rohingyas – to recognise them as a community and respect their right to self-identification – is yet another humiliation, and it creates a shameful paradox: they are denied a name, while being targeted for being who they are,” he added.

Zeid told the Special Session of the Council that it appeared very probable that by continuing to dehumanise the Rohingya the state authorities would fuel even wider levels of violence in the future. “We cannot afford to hear that historical and tragic refrain, one more time, that no one knew it would turn out to be like this — what a lie that would be,” he said.

The High Commissioner warned against the premature repatriation of any refugees in the absence of sustained human rights monitoring on the ground and without first addressing the root causes of the crisis. He cited a similar situation in the 1990s when refugees who fled Rakhine State started to return but were again forced to take flight.

“The world cannot countenance a hasty window-dressing of these shocking atrocities, bundling people back to conditions of severe discrimination and latent violence which seem certain to lead in the future to further suffering, and more movements of people,” the UN human rights chief said.


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / or Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9466 / or Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 9383  /

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Myanmar: UN experts request exceptional report on situation of women and girls from northern Rakhine State

Myanmar: UN experts request exceptional report on situation of women and girls from northern Rakhine State

GENEVA (28 November 2017) – A group of UN experts tasked with monitoring a global treaty on discrimination against women has requested an exceptional report from the Government of Myanmar on the situation of Rohingya women and girls from northern Rakhine State.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) made the decision at a regular meeting in Geneva last week, setting a six-month deadline for the submission of the report to the UN Secretary General. The request was sent to the Government of Myanmar on Monday, meaning the report should be submitted by 28 May 2018. It is only the fourth time an exceptional report has been requested by the Committee since holding its first session in October 1982.

The Committee, comprised of 23 independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, called on the Government to provide information on a range of issues surrounding alleged instances of violence against women and girls in northern Rakhine State in recent months.

As a party to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Myanmar is obliged to report to the Committee on its implementation of the treaty.

The Committee requested information concerning cases of sexual violence, including rape, against Rohingya women and girls by State security forces; and to provide details on the number of women and girls who have been killed or have died due to other non-natural causes during the latest outbreak of violence.

It also requested information on investigations, arrests, prosecutions, convictions and sentences or disciplinary measures imposed on perpetrators, including members of the armed forces, found guilty of such crimes.

The Committee also requested information on:

  • the designation of the battalions that have undertaken the clearance operations in Northern Rakhine State since 25 August 2017 and under whose command;
  • the findings of the final report of the Tatmadaw investigation team led by Lieutenant-General Aye Whin concerning the conduct of the armed forces during the security clearance operations;
  • whether instructions have been or are being issued to all branches of the State security forces that torture, gender-based violence, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, expulsions and other human rights violations are prohibited and that those responsible will be prosecuted and punished;
  • the gender-specific measures taken by the State party to rehabilitate and compensate Rohingya women and girls who are victims/survivors of such violence;
  • the remedies available to Rohingya women and girls to claim violations of their rights;
  • the number of Rohingya women and girls currently detained by State security forces;
  • the number of Rohingya women and girls who have died during childbirth;
  • the number of clinics providing obstetric services and the ratio of doctors and midwives to the Rohingya population; and
  • the number of Rohingya families displaced by the violence, disaggregated by sex, and measures taken by the Government to ensure their voluntary and safe return, economic reintegration and compensation for loss of land or property.

The report of the Government shall be made public, and will be reviewed by CEDAW. For further information, please contact Mr. Anganile Mwenifumbo ( /+41229179337)


CEDAW is composed of 23 independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. Countries who have become party to the treaty (States parties) are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights of the Convention are implemented. However, pursuant to article 18, paragraph 1(b), of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Convention) and decision 21/I dated 17 November 2018 that was adopted during the sixty-eighth session, CEDAW decided to request the Government of Myanmar to submit an exceptional report, within six months, on the ongoing situation of Rohingya women and girls from Northern Rakhine State. The exceptional report, which will be due on 28 May 2018, should be submitted to the Secretary General of the United Nations as required by article 18, paragraph 1 of the Convention.


For media requests please contact:

Jeremy Laurence,  +41(0) 22 9179383/

Secretary-General’s remarks at the 9th ASEAN-UN Summit

Secretary-General’s remarks at the 9th ASEAN-UN Summit
[As delivered]

Manila, 13 November 2017

Mr Chairman,

Distinguished Heads of State and Government of ASEAN,

Secretary-General of ASEAN,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour to join you for the 9th ASEAN-UN Summit.

I congratulate the Government and people of the Republic of the Philippines for your success in chairing ASEAN in its 50th anniversary year.

And I congratulate all the Governments and peoples of ASEAN on the achievement of this milestone.

ASEAN was founded at a time of great turmoil in Southeast Asia.

Five decades on, ASEAN is an indispensable partner in ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in Southeast Asia and beyond.


The five men who signed the founding ASEAN declaration were tow Muslims from Indonesia and Malaysia, a Christian from the Philippines, a Hindu from Singapore and a Buddhist from Thailand.

This is just one sign of remarkable diversity at the heart of your region, as we meet at a time of proliferating divisions and crises.


Globalisation is delivering new opportunities – but increasing economic and social inequalities, heightening citizens’ anxieties and putting pressure on social cohesion.

Climate change is exacerbating severe weather events like hurricanes and storms.

I commend ASEAN’s leadership at the national and regional level for your decisive action to strengthen resilience and reduce the risk posed by climate change and other natural disasters.

I will stress the importance of collective action at the global and regional levels at the COP23 in Germany later this week.


As I told the General Assembly of the UN in September, I am extremely concerned by the threat of global terrorism and violent extremism, including in this region.

The United Nations is prioritizing support for national and regional efforts to counter terrorism and to prevent violent extremism, including the establishment of a dedicated UN Office of Counter-Terrorism. We welcome the adoption of the Manila Declaration to Counter the Rise of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism, and its recognition of the importance of comprehensive approaches and preventive action.

The United Nations stands ready to provide technical support to ASEAN and its member countries in their efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, and to combat transnational crime, including drug trafficking and people trafficking, through policies able to protect their citizens with effective law enforcement and respect for human rights.


The international community must raise the level of its response to all these complex threats. Multilateralism and regional cooperation will be critical to a peaceful and prosperous future.

ASEAN and its Member States have made determined efforts to end conflict throughout the last five decades.

You also have demonstrated your commitment to global peace and security through your participation in UN peace operations.

Last month, I had the opportunity to honour the memory of four Cambodian soldiers killed while helping to bring peace and security to the people of the Central African Republic.

I commend the bravery and sacrifice of some 4,500 military personnel, police and civilians from eight ASEAN countries who are serving in United Nations missions around the world.

Here in the Philippines, I commend your efforts towards peace over many years, with the support of other ASEAN countries and civil society.

And I am heartened by the recent liberation of Marawi from ISIS.

Continued trilateral cooperation between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia will strengthen regional peace and security.


I cannot hide my deep concern with the dramatic movement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh. It is a worrying escalation in a protracted tragedy and a potential source of instability in the region, and radicalization.

The United Nations welcomes constructive approaches by ASEAN, including the provision of humanitarian aid to Northern Rakhine.

Since the beginning of the crisis, and beyond the end of violence, I have called for unhindered humanitarian access to affected communities; and the right to safe, voluntary and dignified return of those who fled, to their places of origin.

Addressing the underlying issues by implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine will also be critical to reverse this tragedy.


Sustainable and inclusive development is the best way to prevent both conflict and violent extremism. That is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our blueprint for a safe and prosperous future on a healthy planet, and central to the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

Economic growth in this region has lifted millions out of extreme poverty in the past five decades.

This region was one of the best performers on the Millennium Development Goals.

As it powers its way to becoming the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050, we look forward to including millions more in the shared benefits of prosperity.

In line with the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, the principles of democratic governance, rule of law and respect for human rights, the United Nations also stands ready to cooperate with you in strengthening the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.


Strengthened partnerships with regional organisations, including ASEAN, are a priority for me, and a critical pillar of my proposals to reform the United Nations.

I invite all ASEAN Member Countries to redouble their commitment to strengthening the ASEAN-UN partnership.

I am deeply committed to work with all of you for a quantum leap to be possible in the strategic cooperation between ASEAN and the UN.

I look forward to an open exchange of views.

Thank you very much.

Readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with H. E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with H. E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar

The Secretary-General met today with H. E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

The Secretary-General and the State Counsellor discussed the situation in Rakhine State. The Secretary-General highlighted that strengthened efforts to ensure humanitarian access, safe, dignified, voluntary and sustained returns, as well as true reconciliation between communities, would be essential.

He also stressed the importance of implementing the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations.

Manila, 14 November 2017