NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 29 – “The Myanmar authorities have said repeatedly in the past few days that ‘it was not the time’ for unhindered access to resume. Given the enormous needs, this position is deeply regrettable”. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued strong statement on Thursday in his speech addressed to the Security Council, on the violence against minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, which has led to a mass exodus into Bangladesh. In the first open UN meeting about the crisis in Myanmar, also known as Burma, Guterres told the Council that the refugee crisis has “spiraled into the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare”, that “could spread”.
The UN Secretary pointed to serious violations of human rights, including “indiscriminate firing of weapons, the use of landmines against civilians and sexual violence”. “We have received bone-chilling accounts from those who fled – mainly women, children and the elderly”, he said. On Thursday, reports surfaced that an ethnic Rohingya insurgent group attacked police posts in Myanmar, sparkling a brutal crackdown by the country’s military and security forces, which have been accused of razing scores of villages in what UN officials have said amounts to “ethnic cleansing”.
“The United Nations and its partners should be allowed to reach the affected areas without delay”, added Guterres, whose position has been reiterated by Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations. “Acts of violence perpetrated against the Rohingya minority, including reports of serious abuses against women, children and the elderly, are a matter of great concern and cannot be tolerated. National Authorities are responsible for the safeguard of life and fundamental rights of all people without discrimination”.
“Safe and unhindered humanitarian access must be ensured”, Cardi highlighted, firmly condemning the attacks launched by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on 25 last August. However “the response must be proportionate and in line with humanitarian law”, the Italian ambassador added, emphasizing that any “violence must end immediately”. Praising the Myanmar government for having established the Rakhine Advisory Committee, Italy has called on the Myanmar’s authorities to “suspend military operations and ensure full civil protection”.
“The crisis in Northern Rakhine is the result of a complex pattern of factors and requires a comprehensive response”, added Cardi who also reiterated “the need of unhindered humanitarian access” and plans to set up “voluntary and safe repatriation of refugees”, which is the key to defeating tensions and stabilizing the region. It is also crucial to build trust between communities: for this reason, Cardi encouraged the government to avoid provocative language and to foster interethnic and interreligious dialogue, also cooperating with the United Nations, which, Guterres said, are supporting voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
The UN is “ready to support Burma and Bangladesh in this process” the UN Secretary General said, underling that “the Muslims of Rakhine should be granted nationality” and pledging the continuing commitment of the UN in “serving an effective partnership with the Burmese authorities, including with the country’s military and security forces. (@Onuitalia, 29 September 2017)