(Yangon/New York, 8 April 2018): At the conclusion today of a six-day mission to Myanmar, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller called for strengthened humanitarian action based on the rights and needs of all communities, in line with international law and humanitarian principles.

“Protecting the most vulnerable people in Myanmar must be at the heart of the humanitarian response by the international community, national aid organizations and the Government,” said Ms. Mueller. “Wherever they are in the country and regardless of their ethnicity, religion and citizenship status, we need to work together to ensure that no vulnerable conflict-affected people are deprived of safe and sustained access to humanitarian protection and assistance. No-one in Myanmar should be left behind on the path towards a better future.”

At the outset of her mission, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator met with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. They discussed the importance of ending conflict and of strengthening peace and reconciliation efforts. Ms. Mueller reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to supporting peace, stability, and development in Myanmar. She offered the continued support of the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to ensure that all people affected by conflict and natural disasters get the humanitarian protection and assistance they need. They agreed on the importance of strengthening national capacities. Ms. Mueller noted the efforts being made by the UN to strengthen the nexus between humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts.

The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator also met with the Ministers of Defence, Border Affairs, International Cooperation, and the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. The meetings with the Union Government were an opportunity to discuss humanitarian challenges in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states as well as the collaborative efforts of the international community and the Government on disaster preparedness efforts.

In Rakhine State, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator visited camps where about 130,000 people, most of whom identify themselves as Rohingya, remain confined in deplorable conditions after almost six years of displacement. In Maungdaw Township, she met with local communities affected by last year’s violence. Ms. Mueller also visited a refugee return transit site that the Government is constructing, some new housing projects, and witnessed areas where villages had been burned down or bulldozed.

“There is a humanitarian crisis on both sides of the Bangladesh-Myanmar border that is affecting the world’s largest group of stateless people,” said Ms. Mueller. “The unfolding tragedy in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar rightly captured the world’s attention, but we cannot, and must not, forget the plight of over 400,000 Muslim people still living in Rakhine State who continue to face a life of hardship and marginalization due to movement restrictions. These restrictions severely compromise their rights and obstruct their access to health, livelihoods, protection, education, and other essential services.”

“The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State has provided an important roadmap towards a better future for all communities in Rakhine State, but its recommendations need to be implemented holistically and impartially, in the spirit that they were written,” said Ms. Mueller. “The lives of the poorest and most vulnerable communities of Rakhine State, whether they are ethnic Rakhine, Muslim, or from other minority groups, will be profoundly transformed if each recommendation is genuinely addressed and implemented. The conditions for the dignified, voluntary, and sustainable return of refugees and positive outcomes for internally displaced people in camps slated for closure can only be reached if the critical issues of freedom of movement, social cohesion, livelihoods, and access to services are addressed.”

The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator welcomed the access that she was granted by the Government to visit communities in different parts of Rakhine. She was concerned, however, by the continued restrictions imposed by the authorities on the movement of the Muslim population, as well as the continued restrictions faced by humanitarian workers.

In her meeting with officials in the Rakhine State Government, Ms. Mueller called for movement restrictions to be dropped and for practical measures to be taken to allow humanitarian workers sustained and unfettered access to all people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

“Humanitarian access in Myanmar has significantly worsened in the past year, not only in Rakhine but also in Kachin and Shan States. When you cut that humanitarian lifeline, there is a very real human impact,” said Ms. Mueller. “I was able to go to northern Rakhine and to some of the camps in Kachin State, but what matters most is that the people affected by violence and restrictions in these areas are themselves given access to the assistance and services they so desperately need.”

In Kachin State, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator met with representatives of international and national humanitarian organizations and visited camps where she spoke with displaced people. She also met with a group of women and girls who were taking action to respond to the needs of women in displaced communities, including preventing gender-based violence. The women emphasized the importance of prevention and education in building stronger, safer communities, and presented a joint letter to the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator raising critical concerns shared by displaced women across Kachin.

At least 10,000 people have been newly displaced or re-displaced by fighting between the Myanmar Military and ethnic armed groups in Kachin and Shan States since the beginning of the year, while about 100,000 people remain displaced as a result of the conflict between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Army that restarted in 2011. Ms. Mueller was particularly impressed by the work of local civil society organizations. She met with representatives of a number of different local organizations and commended them on their outstanding work. She was encouraged to see that the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund channels more than 40 per cent of its funding through national organizations.

“The conflict in Kachin is one the world’s longest running, yet it is a forgotten humanitarian crisis,” said Ms. Mueller. “Clashes break out near displacement camps and civilian areas, landmines are still being placed in the fields and roads of Kachin and Shan States, and people continue to flee their homes. I call on all sides to ensure the protection of all civilians wherever they are, in line with international law.”

During her mission, Ms. Mueller also discussed ways of strengthening disaster preparedness and response. “Myanmar is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and the last time I was here was nearly ten years ago in the tragic aftermath of Cyclone Nargis,” said Ms. Mueller. “I see that much has changed since then and while disaster risk reduction efforts need to be further enhanced, the Government and national organizations have made excellent progress in recent years in building national capacity for disaster preparedness and response.”

More funding is urgently required for the Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan for 2018, which calls for $183 million to meet the needs of 832,000 people in Rakhine, Kachin, Shan, and Kayin States.

For further information, please contact:

In Myanmar: Pierre Peron, +95 9250198997, peronp@un.org
In New York: Russell Geekie, +1 917 331 0393, geekie@un.org
In Geneva: Jens Laerke, +41 79 472 9750, laerke@un.org
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Kindest regards,

OCHA Myanmar

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United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)  |  Country Office in Myanmar
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Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, on his visit to Bangladesh to assess the situation of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar



For immediate release


Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, on his visit to Bangladesh to assess the situation of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar

(Dhaka, 13 March 2018) From 7 to 13 March I visited Bangladesh to assess the situation of the Rohingya population who have crossed the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh since the most recent incidents of violence in northern Rakhine state in October 2016 and August 2017. During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet Bangladeshi authorities, civil society actors and members of the diplomatic community. I also visited refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar, where survivors I met shared horrifying stories of what they have endured.

What I have heard and witnessed in Cox’s Bazaar is a human tragedy with the fingerprints of the Myanmar government and of the international community. The scorched earth campaign carried out by the Myanmar security forces since August 2017 against the Rohingya population was predictable and preventable. Despite the numerous warnings I have made of the risk of atrocity crimes, the international community has buried its head in the sand. This has cost the Rohingya population of Myanmar their lives, their dignity and their homes.

Let us be clear: international crimes were committed in Myanmar. Rohingya Muslims have been killed, tortured, raped, burnt alive and humiliated, solely because of who they are. All the information I have received indicates that the intent of the perpetrators was to cleanse northern Rakhine state of their existence, possibly even to destroy the Rohingya as such, which, if proven, would constitute the crime of genocide. However, whether or not we consider that the crimes committed amount to crimes against humanity or genocide, this should not delay our resolve to act and to act immediately. We owe this to the Rohingya population.


First, the root causes of the problem must be addressed. Only then can this population return in safety and dignity to Myanmar. The fate of the Rohingya has been sealed since the day they were born. A fate of persecution and exclusion. We must change this and give them the opportunity that every human being should be afforded in life: to enjoy their fundamental human rights in freedom and safety. The recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission provide a road map for the Myanmar Government. As a priority the stateless status of the Rohingya community must end and the issue of their citizenship be addressed properly and definitively.

Second, there must be accountability for the crimes that have been committed. I am perplexed by the denial of the widespread commission of serious crimes that has characterized the response of the Myanmar authorities. I urge the international community, in particular the United Nations Security Council, to consider different accountability options. The world needs to show that it is not ready to tolerate such barbaric acts.

Third, the Rohingya must receive protection and support as refugees while in Bangladesh. I welcome the remarkable work done by the Bangladeshi authorities in responding to the arrival of almost 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar in the space of six months. I call on the international community to do more to support Bangladesh in shouldering this responsibility by providing support to the refugees and host communities. The social and economic strains and the environmental impact that this influx of refugees is placing on the area and the host community is clearly visible. I encourage the Bangladesh government to facilitate more dialogue between the two communities to avoid misperceptions and the build-up of tension.

I was encouraged by the commitment made by the Bangladeshi authorities I met that refugees would not be repatriated against their will. What I have heard and seen makes it clear that the majority of the Rohingya want to return to Myanmar, but only when they are able to do so in safety, dignity and with access to the basic rights that are fundamental to us all. So far, the Myanmar authorities have shown no genuine efforts to allow this. In fact, refugees continue to cross the border. It is imperative also that the Rohingya, while in Bangladesh, are afforded more chances to uplift themselves educationally and through access to livelihoods. Doing so will help them both in Bangladesh and when they are able to return to Myanmar.

We must not fail the Rohingya population again. They have endured what no human beings should have to endure. The solution to this problem lies first and foremost with the Myanmar authorities, by creating the conditions for the Rohingya population to return home in safety and be entitled to the same rights as any other citizen of Myanmar. The international community also has a responsibility to protect this population from the risk of further atrocity crimes. Under the present conditions, returning to Myanmar will put the Rohingya population at risk of further crimes. However, accepting the current status quo would be a victory for those who planned the attacks. We must not accept either of these scenarios.

* *** *

For media queries please contact:

Claudia Diaz, Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect


Email: diazc@un.org


Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar: concrete and overwhelming information points to international crimes

Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar: concrete and overwhelming information points to international crimes

GENEVA (12 March 2018) – Experts of the UN Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar called on Myanmar authorities Monday to stop dismissing reports that serious human rights violations have been committed in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states.

“The body of information and materials we are collecting is concrete and overwhelming,” the three experts of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar noted in their interim, oral report* to the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

“It points at human rights violations of the most serious kind, in all likelihood amounting to crimes under international law.”

Marzuki Darusman, former Indonesian Attorney-General and chair of the Fact-Finding Mission, delivered the oral report. He was joined on the podium by fellow experts Radhika Coomaraswamy of Sri Lanka and Chris Sidoti of Australia.

The interim report was based on information gathered from a series of missions to Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand, where teams of investigators conducted over 600 in-depth interviews with victims and witnesses of reported human rights violations and abuses. The teams have also collected and analysed satellite imagery, photographs and video footage of events.

“The events we are examining in detail in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states are products of a longstanding, systemic pattern of human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar,” report said.

“Any denial of the seriousness of the situation in Rakhine, the reported human rights violations, and the suffering of the victims, is untenable,” the experts said. “We have hundreds of credible accounts of the most harrowing nature.”

The report listed eight major findings in relation to allegations in Rakhine State where so-called “clearance operations” of the Myanmar security forces, in response to ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) attacks, have driven nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh since August.

“Credible accounts are rife of the State’s various security forces having committed gross human rights violations in the course of these operations,” the experts said.

“These operations resulted in a very high number of casualties,” the report said.

“People died from gunshot wounds, often due to indiscriminate shooting at fleeing villagers. Some were burned alive in their homes – often the elderly, disabled and young children. Others were hacked to death.”

Satellite imagery shows that at least 319 villages were partially or totally destroyed by fire after the “clearance operations” began on 25 August 2017.

“We have hundreds of eyewitness accounts. We have seen unsettling photographs and satellite images of Rohingya villages flattened to the ground by bulldozers, erasing all remaining traces of the life and community that once was,” Darusman said on the margins of the Council meeting, “not to mention destroying possible crime scene evidence.”

“All the information collected so far points to violence of an extremely cruel nature,” the report said. “We have ample and corroborated information on brutal gang rapes and other forms of sexual violence against women.”

“We have numerous accounts of children and babies who were killed, boys arrested, and girls raped.”

“The widespread and systematic nature of the State-led violence,” the report added, “points to prior planning and organisation, which we are examining in detail.”

“We are analysing the respective roles and command structures of the security forces and the involvement of others… We will attribute responsibility where it is due.”

The report highlighted the Fact-Finding Mission’s concerns over a spike in reported human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Kachin and Shan states. These resulted in significant displacement of population, further exacerbating a “longstanding humanitarian crisis.”

“Regarding the Myanmar military, we are receiving credible reports of indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearances, destruction of property and pillage, torture and inhuman treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, forced labour, and the recruitment of children into armed forces,” the report said.

Appointed by the UN Human Rights Council last March, the Fact-Finding Mission accepted a mandate to “establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar.” Their focus is on the States of Rakhine, Shan and Kachin since 2011.

The Myanmar Government has refused to give the Fact-Finding Mission access to the country and it has blocked attempts to mount an independent and impartial investigation.

Darusman noted that the representative of Myanmar has alluded to a suppression of the “Myanmar narrative.” He responded that the Fact-Finding Mission is ready to hear that narrative, but regardless “we have no shortage of credible information.”

The final report of the Fact-Finding Mission will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September.

* Check the full oral report:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=22798&LangID=E

Media contact:  Sylvana Foa, Media Advisor, Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar, + 41(0)22 917 9900, +41(0)76 691 0789, sfoa@ohchr.org

Myanmar: UN expert calls for accountability over violence in Rakhine State

Myanmar: UN expert calls for accountability over violence in Rakhine State

GENEVA (12 March 2018) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, told the Human Rights Council on Monday she was increasingly of the opinion that the events in Rakhine State bear the hallmarks of genocide and called in the strongest terms for accountability.

Lee, who was informed late last year that her access to the country was denied, also expressed serious concern that “the repressive practices of previous military governments were returning as the norm once more” in Myanmar, describing the situation faced by civil society across the country as “increasingly perilous”.

Delivering her report to the Council in Geneva, Lee said that to date accountability for the crimes committed in Rakhine State following 25 August 2017, and 9 October 2016, was elusive, adding that this must now be the focus of the international community’s efforts to bring long-lasting peace, stability and democratization to Myanmar.

“This must be aimed at the individuals who gave the orders and carried out violations against individuals and entire ethnic and religious groups,” said Lee. “The Government leadership who did nothing to intervene, stop, or condemn these acts must also be held accountable.”

Lee called for a thorough, impartial and credible investigation to be conducted without delay and perpetrators to be held responsible for the alleged crimes that were committed in Rakhine State since 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017, and for the violations that continue today.

She called for the establishment of a UN structure, based in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, for a duration of three years to investigate, document, collect, consolidate, map, and analyze evidence of human rights violations and abuses.

The Special Rapporteur added that the investigative body should maintain and prepare evidence in a master database to support and facilitate impartial, fair and independent international criminal proceedings in national or international courts or tribunals in accordance with international criminal law standards.

Additionally, Lee called for a comprehensive review of actions by the United Nations system in the lead-up to and after the reported attacks of 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017 regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates and within the Human Rights Up Front framework.

“The external review should assess whether the UN and international community could have prevented or managed the situation differently that occurred regarding the Rohingya and in Rakhine State, and make recommendations for accountability if appropriate,” she said.

Lee also expressed concerns that as the world’s attention was drawn to the recent crisis in Rakhine State, scant attention had been afforded to continued and escalating violence in Kachin, Shan and other conflict affected States in Myanmar.

She said against this background, the peace process appeared to be losing its momentum. “Ethnic armed organizations have complained that the reason for this is largely due to the failure of the Government and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) to take steps to earn the trust of stakeholders,” Lee said.

The Special Rapporteur said she hoped to make official visits to India and China as part of her preparation to report to the General Assembly later this year, and said she remained hopeful the Myanmar Government would revisit its decision and grant her access.


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.

Myanmar: Senior UN human rights official decries continued ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State

Myanmar: Senior UN human rights official decries continued ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State

BANGKOK/GENEVA (6 March 2018) – “The ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Myanmar continues. I don’t think we can draw any other conclusion from what I have seen and heard in Cox’s Bazar,” said Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, at the end of a four-day visit to Bangladesh that focused on the situation of the approximately 700,000 refugees who have fled from Myanmar since last August.

The rate of killings and sexual violence in Rakhine State has subsided since August and September last year. But recently arrived Rohingya interviewed by Gilmour and other UN officials in Cox’s Bazar provided credible accounts of continued killings, rape, torture, and abductions, as well as forced starvation. With Maungdaw township on the border of Bangladesh already largely emptied of its Rohingya population, those arriving now are coming from townships further inside.

“It appears that widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya persists,” Gilmour said. “The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied blood-letting and mass rape of last year to a lower intensity campaign of terror and forced starvation that seems to be designed to drive the remaining Rohingya from their homes and into Bangladesh.”

A number of people told Gilmour that Rohingya who try to leave their villages or even their homes are taken away and never return. One man told how his father was abducted by the Myanmar military in February. He was instructed a few days later to collect the body. He recounted that he was too afraid to ask the military what had happened to his father, but that the corpse was covered in bruises. Another man described being tied up by Border Guard Police in his own home in January as his 17-year-old daughter was abducted. When he screamed, they pointed a gun at his head and kicked him repeatedly. When he later tried to find her, he was picked up by them and badly beaten again, this time with the butts of guns. His daughter has not been seen since 15 January. This is a recurring theme – of women and girls abducted, never to be seen again. Their relatives fear the worst – that they were raped and killed.

“The Government of Myanmar is busy telling the world that it is ready to receive Rohingya returnees, while at the same time its forces are continuing to drive them into Bangladesh,” Gilmour said. “Safe, dignified and sustainable returns are of course impossible under current conditions. The conversation now must focus on stopping the violence in Rakhine State, ensuring accountability for the perpetrators, and the need for Myanmar to create conditions for return.”

During his visit, Gilmour interviewed recently arrived refugees in Kutupalong-Balukhali, which in the seven months since August last year has become the largest refugee camp in the world. After meeting with Bangladeshi officials, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations involved in the humanitarian response in Cox’s Bazar, he raised alarm at the prospect of the loss of life in the camps due to the imminent rains.

The Bangladeshi and international humanitarian response to the Rohingya crisis has been very impressive but the rainy season is likely to have a devastating effect on camps such as Kutupalong, a sprawling complex of shelters made of plastic sheeting and bamboo poles located across steep valleys and hillsides that have been stripped of all vegetation, including the roots.


“Having suffered so much from the man-made disaster inflicted by Myanmar, the fear is that this will be compounded by a natural disaster of heavy rainfall that will almost certainly lead to landslides and flooding. It will have the additional effect of polluting water sources through fecal sludge, causing outbreaks of cholera that could lead to many deaths,” Gilmour said.

In Dhaka, Gilmour met with senior officials of the Bangladesh Government. He commended the country’s great hospitality in providing protection and shelter.

“In welcoming such a massive influx of Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh has shown a level of generosity that is sadly lacking in many parts of the world, including in this region. This is especially true given the strain that the refugees and the humanitarian response have put on the local economy, society and environment,” Gilmour said. He added that it was absolutely essential for international donors to demonstrate their appreciation and support to Bangladesh by making long-term commitments to assist the refugees, as well as Bangladeshi host communities, in order to share the burden.

Gilmour underlined the broad consensus that it is inconceivable to expect refugees to return to Myanmar at this point. This is based on three factors: (1) the immediate threat of almost certain killings, rape and other forms of violence; (2) in the short term, the impossibility of living there, given that all sources of food and livelihood have been destroyed or declared off-limits for most of the remaining Rohingya; and (3) in the longer term, the apparent absence of any will to address the root causes of this issue, which has resulted from decades-long policies of discrimination against the Rohingya, particularly the refusal of Myanmar authorities to recognise their right to self-identification and to grant them citizenship.

“Ultimately, the world cannot allow the authors of this brutal case of ethnic cleansing – which many believe may constitute genocide – to be rewarded. Repatriation of the Rohingya to their homes and their country will be necessary, as will accountability for the crimes against humanity that may have been committed against them,” continued Gilmour. “But while the refugees remain in Bangladesh, we call for the authorities to ensure that they can live in dignity, including by permitting access to some livelihood opportunities and by upholding the right to education of all Rohingya children.”

Gilmour expressed his gratitude to the Government of Bangladesh for its support to his mission and his deep admiration for their extraordinary response to the Rohingya in their hour of need.


Andrew Gilmour (United Kingdom) assumed his functions as UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights on 1 October 2016, heading OHCHR’s Office in New York. In October 2016, Mr. Gilmour was designated by the UN Secretary-General as senior official to lead the efforts within the UN system to address intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with the UN on human rights.

For media requests, please contact:

 In Bangkok: Xabier Celaya (+66 22 882 627 / Cell: +66 84 700 4671 / xabier.celaya@un.org)

 In Geneva: Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

 In New York: Fred Kirungi (+1 917 254 3352 / newyork@ohchr.org

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.