UN team heads to Bangladesh to meet Rohingya
A UN Security Council team made its way to the no man's land along the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar on Sunday, hoping to make headway in resolving one of the world's worst refugee crises.
Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled over the border to Bangladesh since August to escape a bloody military crackdown that has left a trail of torched villages in its wake as refugees allege murder and rape by Myanmar's armed forces.
Ahead of a meeting with leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the team plans to sit with refugees in the Bangladeshi camps and interviewing them. Civilian leader Suu Kyi has been slammed for her failure to speak up for the Rohingya.
The Council is urging Myanmar to allow the safe passage of the persecuted Rohingya and to take steps to address the decades of discrimination faced by the Muslim minority in the Buddhist-majority country.
Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam told AFP that the UN team - with 26 diplomats from 15 countries - first visited Konarpara camp, where some 6,000 Rohingya have been trapped on bleak scrubland since the bloodshed began last year.
Dil Mohammad, the camp's leader said the UNSC delegation met and spoke with female victims of the violence witnessed in Rakhine, as well as community elders.
"We told them that we're staying here to save our lives. We're very much eager to go back to our land, provided our security is ensured by the UN," Mohammad told AFP.
Ahead of the visit, hundreds of Rohingya staged a protest in the Kutupalong camp, holding up banners demanding the restoration of their rights in Myanmar. The council plans to head to the camp afterwards where the protest was dispersed by police forces.
"We want restoration of our citizenship under Rohingya ethnicity. We want security and return of our confiscated land and properties," said Rohingya leader Mohibullah, adding that they would present the delegation with 14 conditions for their repatriation to Rakhine.
The Myanmar army denies the allegations and casts its campaign as a legitimate response to Rohingya militant attacks on August 25 that killed about a dozen border guard police.
|The lack of a UN Security Council resolution has left the Myanmar government convinced that it has literally gotten away with mass murder|
The four-day Security Council visit is led by Kuwait, Britain and Peru, and will also include a meeting with Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Delegates will also be flown in a helicopter to see the remains of villages torched during the violence.
Kuwait's Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi said the visit was not about "naming and shaming" Myanmar, but that "the message will be very clear for them: the international community is following the situation and has great interest in resolving it."
Leading international rights group Human Rights Watch called on Friday for the Rohingya crisis to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
"The lack of a UN Security Council resolution has left the Myanmar government convinced that it has literally gotten away with mass murder," HRW executive director Kenneth Roth told reporters in Yangon.
The UN and other rights groups have warned that a mass repatriation of Rohingya would be premature, as Myanmar has yet to address the systematic legal discrimination and persecution the minority has faced for decades.
Bangladesh and Myanmar vowed to begin repatriation in January but the plan has been repeatedly delayed as both sides blame the other for a lack of preparation. More than 8,000 refugees are waiting for repatriations according to a list compiled by Bangladesh.
Myanmar brands the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, denying them their belonging to the Buddhist-majority country. It has systematically dismantled their legal rights and access to basic services in Rakhine, a state where many have lived for generations.