15 May, 2018
THE United Nations Security Council heard a briefing on its members’ recent visits to Bangladesh from 28 to 30 April 2018 and to Myanmar from 30 April to 1 May at the United Nations Security Council Chamber on 14 May 2018 at 03:00 p.m. The briefing was presided over by Permanent Representative of Poland, the current President of the Security Council. At the meeting, Permanent Representatives of Kuwait, Peru and U.K, co-organizers of the visit, briefed the Council on the visits. Following the briefing, other Security Council members, China, U.S.,Sweden, France, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea, Russia Federation, Netherlands and Poland participated in the consultations on the issue.
In accordance with the article 37 of the rules of procedures of the Security Council, concerned parties, Myanmar and Bangladesh, were also invited to discuss at the briefing.
At the briefing, Ambassador U Hau Do Suan, Permanent Representative of Myanmar, made a statement and explained about Myanmar’s views and position on the Rakhine issue. The full text of his statement is as follows:
Myanmar government welcomed the visit of members of the Security Council to Myanmar with the hope that the visit would help them to better understand the situation on the ground, so that we can further strengthen our cooperation with the United Nations in our efforts for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of the displaced persons. We believe that we shall be able to overcome the serious challenges we are facing today by working in partnership with the United Nations. We trust in constructive engagement and cooperation based on the principles of objectivity, mutual respect and understanding.
We also hope that the visit will give a strong impetus to our bilateral efforts with Bangladesh for the implementationof the repatriation process. We had facilitated the Security Council’s visit at fullest extent as possible within the available time frame of the Council. The State Counsellor remarked the visit an important turning point. She reaffirmed Myanmar Government’s commitment to bring peace, stability and development to Rakhine State.
In resolving current issues relating to the Rakhine State, we all agree that the most urgent task right now is to start repatriation of the displaced persons in accordance with the bilateral agreements. We have repeatedly stated that we want to start the repatriation process as soon as possible as we are ready to receive the returnees.
Recently on 8 May, Bangladesh Ambassador to Myanmar Mr. Manjurul Karim Khan Chowdhury was summoned to Nay Pyi Taw and reminded of Myanmar’s readiness to commence repatriation of verified displaced persons before the monsoon as agreed by the two governments. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again urged Bangladesh to implement the bilateral agreement and repatriate those already verified so that they can return to their villages in Rakhine. The Ambassador was also reminded to send the lists of displaced persons using the right forms as agreed in the Physical Arrangement for repatriation. The forms used by Bangladesh were not the ones prescribed in the Physical Arrangement. They did not contain signatures, fingerprints and proper photographs necessary for proper verification and assurance of their consent. We had already requested the Bangladesh sides on three separate occasions through diplomatic channels to forward duly-filled prescribed forms that would enable displaced personsto be repatriated under the principle of voluntary, safe and dignified return.
Prior to the UNSC visit to Myanmar, the Union Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement of Myanmar had visited Cox’s Bazaar refugee camps and met with the displaced persons. He explained to them resettlement program for the returnees and information on the repatriation process. To our surprise, they are not aware of anything about the repatriation process. Apparently, they were not notified by the Bangladesh authorities on the current bilateral arrangements nor were provided any forms to be filled in for necessary repatriation process. During the visit, the Minister could not meet the persons that we have verified for repatriation despite our request for arrangement of the meeting.
While we are trying to solve the issues in good faith through bilateral cooperation, it is most regrettable that instead of fulfilling its commitment for repatriation of the displaced persons as agreed upon in the bilateral agreements, the Bangladesh side has been deliberately making excuses one after another to stall the repatriation process. Bangladesh has been distorting the facts and telling the whole world that Myanmar is not willing to accept the return of the displaced persons. Bangladesh is altering the truth and vilifying the Government and people of Myanmar to solicit international condemnation and to exert maximum political pressures on Myanmar. We need full and sincere cooperation of the Government of Bangladesh if the repatriation process is to be successful.
Allow me to refer to the remarks made by the distinguished Permanent Representative of Kuwait on the illegal occupation on both sides of the international border.
Human habitation and building of any structure within 150 feet from international border line is prohibited by bilateral border agreement. Therefore we have filed our objection to Bangladesh side on construction of bunkers and some houses on their side of the border, in the restricted area.
We have also found out that Bangladesh has been helping illegal occupants on Myanmar side of the international border line in building shelters, which is a blatant violation of Myanmar’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. This action must stop immediately.
Allow me to turn to the matter of accountability. The Government of Myanmar has stated time and again that no violation of human rights will be condoned. Allegations supported by evidence will be investigated and action taken in accordance with the law. You may recall, Madam President, that during your meeting with the State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she condemned violence and reassured you of our readiness to take actions on the alleged human rights violations in Rakhine, if necessary information is provided. She reiterated security assurance would be given to anybody who wishes to bring up the case of rights violation at the court in Myanmar.
Moreover, the Commander-in-Chief had also told the members of the Council that the Tatmadaw would welcome any alleged survivor of sexual violence who could bring hard evidence of the crime committed so that the perpetrators can be held accountable.
When it comes to human rights abuses and violations, we should not forget the fact that the current humanitarian problem was the result of ARSA terrorist attacks on 30 Border Guard posts in Northern Rakhine. The root cause of the latest crisis and the brutal killings and atrocity committed by the terrorists on innocent ethnic Hindu, Rakhine Budhists and other minority tribes had been ignored by the western media. The truth has been suppressed by the incessant sensational argument of Muslim victimhood narratives. Only balanced and constructive approach will lead us to the right solution of the extremely complex and politically most sensitive problem of Rakhine State.
During UNSC visit to Maungtaw, on 1 May, about 20 Rakhine, Mro, Maramagyi and Hindus waited for the Council members at the Township Administrative Office to get the opportunity to testify their stories of ARSA terrorist atrocities. Due to limited time, only a Rakhine woman and a Hindu woman were able to talk about human rights abuse and atrocities perpetrated by ARSA terrorists. Sadly, many tragic stories of the ethnic people in Rakhine have fallen on the deaf ears of some who wanted to listen to only one side of the story of their choice.
These people witnessed the atrocities committed by ARSA terrorists, among others, the killing of 7 Mro ethnic people in Kone Tine village of Maungtaw township on 28 August, 2017 and the subsequent torching of 2,625 houses in the area. They also testified the horrific discovery of a mass grave found in the north west of Ye Baw Kya village on 28 September 2017 where 45 bodies of Hindus were discovered among 100 kidnapped by ARSA.
These ethnic people in Maungtaw area are traumatized by the brutal acts of terrorists. They all felt insecure as minority groups in their own land by the fear instilled in their life by the ARSA.
ARSA must also be held accountable for atrocities committed against civilian population in Rakhine. Investigation of violations must include cases of terrorist atrocities as well. We are seriously concerned that Bangladesh is unwittingly allowing extremists to rear its ugly head in this part of the region. ARSA is already having a foothold in the camps, and soon it will become a strong hold of terrorism and extremism. Recently, on May 9, a group of 4 to 6 terrorists entered into one of the refugee camps in Balukali and dragged a 46 years old Mohamed Faisal Ulhaq out of the camp and stabbed him to death. It was reported that he was advocating for return of IDPs to Rakhine among fellow displaced people in the camp.
We have made every effort to prepare the environment conducive for the return of displaced people. Convincing that engagement of UN agencies in Rakhine will strengthen our ability to ensure safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation, we are in the process of active discussions for the MOU with the UNDP and UNHCR.These agencies will be working alongside Myanmar ministries concerned and the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development for the good of all communities in Rakhine.
At the same time, we shall also be dealing with the root causes of the recent violence. The recommendations of the Annan Commission set out practical measures necessary to achieve development for all communities in Rakhine. There are 88 recommendations of Mr. Annan Commission and 48 recommendations of National level Investigation Commission. Many of those recommendations are overlapped. 57 recommendations will be fulfilled soon while 31 recommendations are still processing. The first report of the Implementation Committee was launched in Feb 2018 and the second report will come out in May 2018.
Since the submission of the Mr. Annan final report, 3 IDP camps have been relocated. Another 4 camps will also be closed very soon.
With regard to the issuance of National Verification Card, false information has been spreading around to discourage people from complying with the requirement. In fact, the NVC is the first step for citizenship verification. NVC holders who met necessary requirements in accordance with existing law will become Myanmar citizens. Everyone residing in Myanmar has to go through the same process of verification.
We will continue to implement the recommendations of the Annan Report at the fullest extent possible in line with situation on the ground to bring long-term peace, harmony and development to the people of Rakhine.
The international community, including the United Nations, should work together to create an environment conducive to restoring peace, harmony and development for all people in Rakhine State. Hate narratives that promote deep rooted mistrust must stop. The present hostile attitude towards Myanmar will not contribute to building peace and harmony in the country. We have just heard a few remarks of very hostile and hateful sentiments toward my country. That is quite unfortunate.
Discriminatory treatment and one-sided support would only lead to further polarization and escalation of tension between different communities in the region.
Bangladesh must cooperate fully with Myanmar in sincerity in the implementation of bilateral agreement for repatriation of displaced persons. We are confident that we will be able to solve the present humanitarian problem and long-term peace and development of Rakhine State if Myanmar and Bangladesh work hand in hand with the spirit of mutual respect, genuine desire to help the displaced persons and the spirit of good neighborliness.
In this connection, the Joint Working Group for repatriation of the displaced person will meet in Dhaka on 17 May 2018 to expedite implementation of the agreed repatriation process.
Myanmar expresses its appreciation to members of the Council who have been extending their support to Myanmar at this challenging time of transition to democracy. We also thank our four neighbours for accepting our invitation to travel to Myanmar with the Council members. We believe that mutual understanding and constructive cooperation will ultimately bring about positive result that we all aspire to. Notwithstanding all the daunting challenges we are facing, the Government of Myanmar will spare no effort to bring peace, harmony and development to all people in Rakhine State, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.