UN told that Myanmar is 'prioritizing Rohingya repatriation'

Most UN members denounce human rights violations against Rohingya and other minorities
UN told that Myanmar is 'prioritizing Rohingya repatriation'

A file image of Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor of Myanmar Kyaw Tint Swe arriving to the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 28, 2018. (Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP)

Myanmar is prioritizing the repatriation of scores of Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Rakhine State, a senior official from the Southeast Asian nation has told the United Nations.

Kyaw Tint Swe, Myanmar’s union minister for the office of the state counselor, told the U.N. General Assembly that repatriations would be implemented in line with a November 2017 agreement with Bangladesh.

"We fully share the concern of the international community over the violence that affects communities in Rakhine,” Swe said Sept. 28. “Our priority now is to expedite repatriation and to create a more conducive environment for verified returnees.”

Swe also warned of incidences occurring in the refugee camps aimed at preventing repatriation and exploiting the plight of displaced persons that need to be addressed.

He asserted that smooth and successful repatriation requires genuine political will, commitment and a strict adherence to signed agreements.

“Myanmar strongly holds the view that issues between neighbors can and must be resolved bilaterally in an amicable and friendly manner,” he said.

The minister said those who quality for citizenship will be given citizenship cards while the rest will receive national verification cards which he likened to “green cards” issued to migrants in the United States.

Myanmar’s government regards the Rohingya as “Bengalis.” By not recognizing the term “Rohingya,” the government has implied that they are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh despite large numbers of them having lived in Myanmar for generations.

Swe dismissed calls to set up a “safe zone” in Myanmar as such ideas are “neither warranted nor workable”.

He also rejected the International Criminal Court’s request to authorize an investigation into alleged Myanmar military atrocities against Rohingya in Rakhine. He insisted that Myanmar is not a party to the court.  

“Myanmar is not opposed to accountability for any wrongdoing related to the large outflow of displaced persons to Bangladesh,” Swe said. “But any international body does not have jurisdiction over alleged crimes in our country.”

He added the International Criminal Court prosecutor is focused on the outflow from Rakhine State yet remains silent on the broader picture behind the displacement as well as the various parties involved. 

UN’s resolution on Myanmar

On Sept. 26, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the rights situation of the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar.

Of the 46 member states, 37 voted in favor of the resolution while seven others abstained and two such as China and the Philippines voted against it.

The resolution denounces “all violations and abuses of human rights in Myanmar, including against Rohingya and other minorities, and expressing deep concern at the reports of ongoing human rights violations.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and Myanmar’s military have long faced pressure from the international community over reported atrocities against the Rohingya in Rakhine.

A U.N. fact-finding mission found there had been “genocidal acts” carried out in Rakhine during Myanmar security forces' clearance operations that also resulted in more than 740,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.

U.N. investigators have called for the U.N. Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or to establish an ad-hoc tribunal, as it did for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

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