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Rohingya repatriation: UN expert questions goodwill of Myanmar

  • Published at 09:03 am September 23rd, 2020
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas who have fled their homeland in Rakhine State after being persecuted by their own country Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

UN special rapporteur on Myanmar urges Myanmar to immediately end the ongoing deliberately targeted military assaults on Rakhine villages

A United Nations human rights expert, on Tuesday, questioned the goodwill of Myanmar with respect to the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas sheltered in Cox's Bazar.

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Thomas Andrews also urged Myanmar to immediately end the ongoing deliberately targeted military assaults on Rakhine villages.

Decrying the death toll of innocent children that continues to rise, he called for an immediate ceasefire in Rakhine State.

Citing Myanmar’s statement to the Human Rights Council last week that “commencement of repatriation is our priority”, Andrews asked, “But what does repatriation mean for those who once lived in Kan Kya? How can they be integrated into their place of origin when it has become a military base?" 

He continued, "Where is justice for those stranded in refugee camps in Bangladesh while facilities are constructed on their homeland for the same military that stands accused at the International Court of Justice for committing genocide against them?”

Andrews presented satellite photographs of a Rohingya village – Khan Da Para, also known as Kan Kya — before and after it was attacked and destroyed in military-led “clearance operations” in August 2017. He showed a photo dated this year that showed a military installation where homes and villages once stood. 

“Serious questions have been raised about whether these children, and growing numbers of others, are being caught in the crossfire of war, or are being deliberately targeted,” said the special rapporteur. 

“These assaults need to stop and that the Secretary General’s call for a ceasefire must be heeded immediately, he added.

“Two five-year-old children were killed and another was wounded by artillery fire in Myebon Township two weeks ago today,” said Andrews. 

“Impunity and human rights cannot coexist,” he said.

Also read - Bangladesh strongly denies alleged sexual assault on Rohingya women in Bhashan Char

Citing the videotaped confessions of two Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) defectors to massacres, rape and other against Rohingya Muslims in August 2017, the expert urged the government of Myanmar to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and the Independent Invesigative Mechanism for Myanmar. 

He also referenced the International Court of Justice that is assessing Myanmar’s compliance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Andrews noted that Myanmar is facing a tremendous challenge in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic during an election season. He is calling on the international community to provide greater public health support.

He raised concerns that the government is imposing “vague and subjective criteria” to restrict the right to freedom of expression for political candidates.

“This is not only an infringement of fundamental rights, it is also dangerous,” said Andrews, noting that news sites serving ethnic minority areas have also been ordered shut. 

The special rapporteur also raised concerns about limitations on the right to vote in Myanmar’s upcoming elections on November 8, 2020. 

“The results of an election cannot accurately reflect the will of the people when the right to vote is denied because of race, ethnicity or religion,” he said.

“I have seen no evidence that the government is willing or prepared to facilitate the right to vote for hundreds of thousands of voting-age Rohingya located in Rakhine State or in refugee camps in Bangladesh," he added.

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