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Diplomats Urge Myanmar Authorities to Turn Promises Into Action


Rohingya refugees line up to receive food at a camp near Teknaf, Bangladesh, Oct. 12, 2017.

U.N. envoys from Britain and France called for Myanmar authorities to translate promises into action to end violence and create the conditions for the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees.

“Yesterday, we heard Aung San Suu Kyi set out in a speech her initial ideas for how to build that long-term future, and we will be watching developments closely as she turns words into actions,” British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters Friday, referring to Myanmar’s de facto leader.

Ethnic cleansing accusations

More than 536,000 Rohingyas have crossed the border into neighboring Bangladesh in the past seven weeks, fleeing a military crackdown on their minority community after Rohingya militants launched deadly attacks on state security forces.

“This is an ethnic cleansing happening before our eyes,” warned French Ambassador François Delattre. Myanmar’s officials have strongly disputed such charges from an array of international officials.

Fleeing Rohingya have told harrowing accounts of the military burning their villages in northern Rakhine state, rape, killings, looting and the laying of landmines to prevent people returning to their homes.

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said the crisis is currently “quite possibly the most acute human rights crisis in the world.” In the private briefing, he told council members that there had been no real progress in holding perpetrators accountable or in addressing the underlying causes of the violence.

Kofi Annan, chairman for Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, talks to journalists during his news conference in Yangon, Myanmar, Aug. 24, 2017.
Kofi Annan, chairman for Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, talks to journalists during his news conference in Yangon, Myanmar, Aug. 24, 2017.

Road map for Rakhine

Last year, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan was asked to lead an advisory commission composed of Myanmar and international experts to provide recommendations to the government on how to improve the situation in Rakhine.

Annan told reporters Friday that the commission’s final report offers a road map going forward.

“It’s clear that everybody agrees on what is required to be done in the short term: stopping the violence, getting humanitarian assistance to those in need, helping eventually for the dignified and voluntary return of those who have left and are in Bangladesh,” he said after briefing the Security Council.

He cautioned that this would not be easy to achieve, noting in the longer term root causes of the strife, including discrimination, poverty and citizenship rights, must be addressed.

“They will only go back if they have a sense of security and confidence that their lives will be better,” Annan said.

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