UN Security Council held open briefing on “The situation in Myanmar”
The United Nations Security Council held an open briefing on “The situation in Myanmar” on 28 August 2018 at 3:00 p.m under the presidency of the United Kingdom. The briefing was chaired by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations. United Nations Secretary- General Mr. Antonio Guterres, Associate Administrator of UNDP Mr. Tegegnework Gettu, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ms. Cate Blanchett briefed the Council. All members of the Council took part in the discussion.
According to Article 37 of the rules of procedures of the Security Council, as countries concerned, Myanmar and Bangladesh were also invited to deliver statement at the briefing. At the briefing, Permanent Representative of Myanmar, Ambassador U Hau Do Suan, participated and delivered a statement. Some salient points of his statement are as follows:
- At the outset, please allow me to pay tribute to the late Dr. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations who had contributed tremendously toward our efforts to find lasting solutions to the problems that were jeopardizing peace and progress in Rakhine State.
- We should learn from his way of solving conflicts in a peaceful manner with a constructive and caring approach.
- An Advisory Commission on the Rakhine State headed by Dr. Kofi Annan was established on 5 September 2016. Barely a month later, a religious extremist terrorist group called Aqa Mul Mujahidin (later became Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army-ARSA) launched its first attack on three Border Police posts in northern Rakhine State on 9 October 2016. The attack was premeditated and well organized, causing death of 13 security personnel and other civilians.
- The Advisory Commission submitted its interim report on 16 March 2017 which addressed some of the most urgent challenges facing the state including the immediate security concerns following October terrorist attack of police posts.
- On 24 August 2017, the Rakhine Advisory Commission presented its final report including 88 recommendations to the Government of Myanmar. We welcomed the report and decided to carry on the task to implement the recommendations in good faith to the fullest extent, within the shortest timeframe possible, and consonant with the situation on the ground.
- In the early hour of 25 August 2017, just a few hours after Mr. Kofi Annan handed his final report, ARSA launched premeditated, well planned and coordinated simultaneous armed attacks on 30 Border Guard posts and one army Battalion headquarters in northern Rakhine. The attacks caused death of dozens of security personnel as well as many innocent civilians. ARSA has also brutally killed over 250 non-Muslims ethnic minorities in northern Rakhine since October 2016. On 25 August 2017, ARSA massacred a hundred Hindus, which was well documented.
- The ARSA attacks triggered predictable and logical response of Myanmar security forces to protect the life and property of every citizen, resulting in the subsequent mass displacement of people.
- These are plain facts and nothing but the truth. These events were well planned and executed with the support of foreign terrorist organizations.
- The present grave humanitarian problem and the untold suffering of the innocent civilian people of all communities in Rakhine State were carefully calculated, instigated and created by ARSA.
- Their objective was to undermine Myanmar Government’s commitment and efforts to find lasting solution through the speedy implementation of the Commission’s recommendations and to elicit maximum international pressure on Myanmar to achieve their political goals.
- We share deep sympathy and concern for all displaced persons, friends, especially women and children. We believe that we will able to solve the issue with our neighbor Bangladesh if we work together amicably in the spirit of good neighbourliness.
- According to the Agreement on physical arrangement for repatriation, the process of repatriation was scheduled to have commenced on 23 January 2018.
- In line with these bilateral agreements, Myanmar made arrangements with momentum for the repatriation of verified displaced persons. We have been ready to receive the first batch of verified returnees since 23 January.
- We call on Bangladesh to fulfill its obligations in accordance with the bilateral agreements, to allow without delay, the return of verified persons who consented to return to Rakhine voluntarily.
- Another important issue is the systematic repatriation of displaced persons staying on the borderline. Since occupying the areas 150 feet from the international border line is unlawful, these people put themselves unwittingly in a situation that can affect stability of the two bordering countries. It is highly possible that the areas become an ARSA terrorist foothold. In this regard, we have requested Bangladesh authorities not to provide them any assistance from their side of the border, instead we are now arranging to provide humanitarian assistance for them from Myanmar side.
- Moreover, the Government of Myanmar also signed an MoU with the UNDP and the UNHCR to assist speedy and efficient resettlement and rehabilitation of the returnees. We have already mapped out potential resettlement sites. On 7 August, UN officials have been granted access to 23 villages in 13 village tracts, selected for the first phase of assessment programme. An additional three village tracts have also been marked out for the resettlement of IDPs residing near the borderline. We urge the UN team to start the assessment programme as soon as possible.
- The Government continues to implement the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission in earnest. 81 out of 88 recommendations have been implemented or under implementation. In the process of implementation, the Government attaches great importance to the advice and opinion of the Advisory Board chaired by Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai, former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand.
- We recognize the crucial role of the United Nations in addressing the issue of Rakhine and, the present humanitarian crisis in particular. We facilitated the visit of Security Council members and representative of neighbouring countries and the ASEAN chair in April this year. We welcomed appointment of Ambassador Christine Burgener as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General.
- Let me now turn to the question of accountability. The Government of Myanmar has made its position very clear that it will not condone any human rights abuse. Action will be taken against anyone if there is sufficient evidence. In this regard, the Government has established an Independent Commission of Enquiry, led by Ambassador Rosario Manalo, an eminent diplomat with rich experience in the field of human rights. The Commission also includes Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, another prominent diplomat, and two highly respected members of Myanmar.
- The Commission is tasked to investigate allegations of human rights violations and related issues following the terrorist attacks with a view to seeking accountability and reconciliation, and to formulate recommendations on steps to be taken to ensure peace and stability in Rakhine State. The Commission will submit its report to the President of Myanmar within a year, including its recommendations prepared on the basis of the outcomes of its investigation.
- The Government of Myanmar will provide protection to all those who are in contact with ICOE, particularly victims and witnesses. The Commission will conduct its mandate in the principles of independence, impartiality and objectivity.
- With regard to the allegation of atrocity crimes committed by Myanma security forces as contained in the recent report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, I would like to reiterate that we did not accept the mandate of the Mission because we have our concern about the Mission’s impartiality.
- Besides, I have serious doubt on the intention of the timing of the release of the report.
- The challenges we are facing today in Rakhine State is formidable. We shall not let these challenges derail our ultimate goal of democratic nation building.
- While the primary responsibility to address the situation in Rakhine rests with the Government and people of Myanmar, objective, positive and constructive contribution and support of the international community is crucial for the success of Myanmar’s national efforts.
- This is not the time for exploiting the plight of innocent people particularly women and children, from Rakhine for self-interest and political grandstanding. This is the time to act, to show our genuine concern by taking practical steps.
- We should make important policy decisions based on facts and full understanding of the issues at hand. We should view this complex issue from a broader perspective.