UNSC envoys hear of rapes, murders from Rohingya refugees

A Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar Bangladesh Sept. 19 2017
A Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar Bangladesh Sept. 19 2017

01 May, 2018

Representatives from the 15 member countries of the United Nations organ on Sunday spoke with some of the 700,000 people who fled what the United Nations has called "ethnic cleansing" in neighbouring Myanmar in a visit aimed at giving representatives a glimpse of the situation firsthand.

The Security Council, meanwhile, has yet to vote on an official resolution to exert global pressure on Myanmar, although the United Nations and United States - another permanent UNSC member - both branded a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine state that drove almost 700,000 Rohingya to seek shelter in neighboring Bangladesh since last August as "ethnic cleansing".

Some of the Muslim refugees broke down in tears as they told harrowing stories of murder and rape in mainly Buddhist Myanmar.

However, deputy Russian ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy, whose country has supported Myanmar, warned that the council did not have a "magic stick" to resolve what is now one of the world's worst refugee crises.

Senior diplomats from the 15-member Security Council - including permanent members the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - arrived in Bangladesh on Saturday for a four-day visit to the camps. "I hope that (the Security Council) will see we are really serious on trying to find a solution for this".

Their visit to Myanmar comes after an emotionally-charged stay in Bangladesh where Rohingya refugees told delegates of their trauma.

Myanmar has faced intense global pressure since the start of a military campaign in August that has driven some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims over the border into Bangladesh, where refugees have provided harrowing testimony of murder and rape by security forces and local mobs.

Britain's United Nations ambassador Karen Pierce said the Rohingya "must be allowed to go home in conditions of safety".

"We are ready and willing but it will take two to tango", Thaung Tun told Reuters.

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Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees started arriving in Bangladesh in August previous year, after Myanmar's army launched a violent crackdown on Rohingya in Rakhine State.

She has been criticized by the West for failing to defend the Rohingyas, who Myanmar authorities consider to be Bengali immigrants from Bangladesh, although they have lived in the country for centuries.

They later went to Kutupalong Camp in Bangladesh where over half a million refugees are now living.

The Tatmadaw - another name for Burma's military - has denied accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing, maintaining it is carrying out legitimate response to attacks by "terrorist" Rohingya rebel groups.

On Tuesday, the security council will visit the Rakhine state, where the violence against the Rohingya was carried out, with the main goal of inspecting whether the displaced Rohingya can return safely.

The U.N. refugee agency and Bangladesh recently finalized a memorandum of understanding that said the repatriation process must be "safe, voluntary and dignified.in line with global standards".

Today's visit was planned by Myanmar's government to begin repairing relations with the worldwide community and will be used as an opportunity to consider taking further action.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has asked it to rule on whether it has jurisdiction over the deportations of Rohingyas to Bangladesh, a possible crime against humanity.

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