UN chief says violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya must stop

Indo Pak engage in dialogue: UN chief

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it is “an absolutely essential priority” to stop all violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, allow them to return to their homes, and grant them legal status.

The UN chief told reporters Friday that the UN is also insisting on “unhindered humanitarian access” to all areas of northern Rakhine state, where more than 600,000 Rohingya lived before fleeing to Bangladesh.

Guterres is leaving Friday night for Europe and Asia, where he will attend a joint summit between the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which is certain to address the plight of the Rohingya. Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has faced growing international condemnation over violence against the Rohingya, is expected to attend the meeting in the Philippines from Nov 10-14.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar doesn’t recognise the Rohingya as an ethnic group, insisting they are Bengali migrants from Bangladesh living illegally in the country. It has denied them citizenship, leaving them stateless.

The latest violence began with a series of attacks Aug 25 by Rohingya insurgents. Myanmar security forces responded with a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages that the UN and human rights groups have criticised as a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

“What has happened is an immense tragedy,” Guterres said, “and the levels of violence and the atrocities committed are something that we cannot be silent about.”

“We insist on the need to make sure not only that all violence against this population stops, but also … we insist on the need to reassert the right of return,” he said.

The secretary-general said the Rohingya must be able to return voluntarily, in safety and dignity, to the areas they came from and not be placed in camps.

Guterres said the root causes of the discrimination that has left the Rohingya stateless, such as their legal status, must also be addressed.

He has previously urged Myanmar’s government to give the Rohingya citizenship, or at least legal recognition, so they can move freely, get jobs and an education, and receive health care.

“We’ll go on engaging in all possible domains for these objectives to be finally achieved,” the secretary-general said.

Guterres applauded a presidential statement which strongly condemned the violence against the Rohingya and was approved unanimously by the Security Council on Monday, calling it “an important step forward.”

The statement called on Myanmar’s government to “ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine state” and take immediate steps to respect human rights.

It was the strongest council pronouncement on Myanmar in nearly 10 years, and reflected widespread international concern at the plight of the Rohingya.


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