UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called on Myanmar’s military-installed government to include ethnic Rohingya in a solution to the country’s political crisis.
He commented on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the start of a mass exodus of the Muslim minority to Bangladesh to escape a military crackdown in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres noted “the tireless aspirations for an inclusive future” for the Rohingya, who face widespread discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Most are denied citizenship and many other rights.
The long-simmering conflict with the Rohingya erupted on August 25, 2017, when Myanmar’s military launched what it called a mine clearance campaign in Rakhine in response to attacks on police and border guards by a group Rohingya activist. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh as troops reportedly carried out mass rapes and murders and burned down thousands of homes.
In January 2020, the International Court of Justice, the UN’s highest court, ordered Myanmar to do everything in its power to prevent the genocide against the Rohingya. Two days earlier, an independent commission set up by the Myanmar government had concluded that there was reason to believe that the security forces had committed war crimes against the Rohingya, but not genocide.
In March 2022, the United States declared the oppression of the Rohingyas amounted to genocide after authorities confirmed accounts of mass atrocities against civilians by the Myanmar military.
Guterres’ spokesman said “perpetrators of all international crimes committed in Myanmar should be held accountable”, adding that “justice for victims will contribute to a sustainable and inclusive political future for the country and its people”.
Earlier this month, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet that around 1 million Rohingya refugees living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh had to return home to Myanmar.
“The Rohingya are nationals of Myanmar and they must be brought back,” Hasina said, as quoted by Bachelet’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim.
But Dujarric, the UN spokesman, said there was no immediate prospect of a Rohingya return, noting that more than 150,000 Rohingya are still confined to camps in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. .
China brokered an agreement in 2017 between Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate Rohingyas. But Hasina and other Bangladeshi officials have expressed frustration at what they call Myanmar’s inaction to take them back. The Rohingya have been reluctant to return without addressing their longstanding grievances.
Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s elected government in February 2021 as Aung San Suu Kyi’s party was about to begin a second term. The military takeover was met with broad public opposition, which has since escalated into armed resistance that some UN experts have described as a civil war. Critics of the army have accused it of committing widespread human rights abuses.
Following the military coup, Dujarric said “the humanitarian, human rights and security situation in Myanmar has deteriorated”.
The secretary-general “stresses that the full and effective participation of the Rohingya people is an integral part of a Myanmar-led solution to the crisis,” he said. “It is essential that the international community continues to seek comprehensive, lasting and inclusive solutions to the crisis. »
Dujarric said better access to affected areas for UN humanitarian and development officials and their partners is “crucial”.