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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN: Myanmar is Not Safe for the Return of Rohingya Refugees

By Lisa Schlein September 16, 2019

A U.N. investigator finds that two years after the violent expulsion of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, the situation in their home country remains too dangerous for them to return from their refuge in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh.

U.N. Special Rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, says Myanmar commits ongoing gross violations of international law and uses brutal measures to repress ethnic minorities in Rakhine and southern Chin states.

She says many civilians have been killed and tens of thousands displaced by the indiscriminate use of heavy artillery and other methods of warfare used by both the Tatmadaw, Myanmar's armed forces, and the Arakan Army, an insurgent group in Rakhine.

She says by no stretch of the imagination is it possible to believe the Rohingya refugees would be safe if they returned to Myanmar. In August, she notes an agreement was hatched to repatriate 3,450 refugees.

She says Myanmar claims to have done what is necessary for the repatriation to be successful and blames Bangladesh for delays in the operation going ahead. She says the contrary is true.

"Myanmar has done nothing to dismantle the system of violence and persecution, and the Rohingya who remain in Rakhine live in the same dire circumstances that they did prior to the events of August 2017," said Lee. "They are denied citizenship and recognition, face regular violence, including in the context of the ongoing conflict between the Arakan Army and the Tatmadaw."

The U.N. investigator says the Rohingya are unable to move freely and have little access to food, health care, education, livelihoods and services.

Myanmar's Permanent Representative to the U.N. in Geneva, Kyaw Moe Tun, denounces Yanghee Lee's lack of impartiality, objectivity and good faith. He says Myanmar has zero tolerance for any violation of human rights and any form of violence, especially against children, women and the vulnerable.

He acknowledges no Rohingya have returned under the bilateral arrangements, but notes some Hindu and Muslim people have gone back on their own volition. He says it is crystal clear some people want to return.

He calls on the U.N. Human Rights Council to replace Yanghee Lee with a new special rapporteur who understands Myanmar's history and recognizes the difficulties it faces in moving toward a democratic society.

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