Security Council Briefing: Myanmar

Statement by Karel J.G. van Oosterom ,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

New York, 13 February 2018

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for putting this very serious issue on the agenda.

First let me thank Mr Jenca and Mr Grandi for their impressive briefings. 

Mr. President, I will focus on three issues today.

  • Firstly, the current situation in Myanmar.
  • Secondly, how to ensure safe, dignified and voluntary return of the Rohingya.
  • Thirdly, the humanitarian challenges in the camps in Cox Bazar in Bangladesh.

The current situation in Myanmar

Mr. President, my first point: the current situation in Myanmar. Every week that passes, we hear more stories of mass atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingya people following the events of last August.

Stories of mass graves in the village of Inn din, a coastal village where the entire Rohingya population of 6.000 people have fled.

Stories of young girls who are the victim of sexual violence.

Stories of children who saw their parents and siblings killed and who had to find their own way to safety in Bangladesh.

Stories of almost 700.000 people who had to flee from their homes.

Mr. President, it is often journalists who bring us these stories. And in this respect, like others have done, let me raise the plight of the Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Both have been detained two months ago whilst working on a report on the mass grave in Inn din.

We call on the Government of Myanmar to respect their rights, they should be released now. The Government furthermore should allow journalists to “work independently and without undue interference”, as stated in Security Council Resolution 2222. Fundamental human rights are at stake, as Mr. Jenca said earlier.

Mr. President,

The recent testimonies of the situation in Myanmar are shocking. They press upon us the need to address these mass atrocities and to find a durable and just resolution to the immense plight of the Rohingya.

The crisis continues to affect not only the security of Myanmar but also that of its neighbors. The situation therefor warrants the close and continued attention of this Council.

Safe, dignified and voluntary return

Mr. President,

This brings me to my second point: safe, dignified and voluntary return of the refugees. We welcome the steps undertaken by the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to build a framework for eventual return.

We emphasize the right of return of all refugees to Myanmar, but it is clear that the conditions in Rakhine State are not sufficient yet to start this process.

Returns can only take place if they’re voluntary, safe and dignified. Independent monitoring of this process is essential to ensure it lives up to international standards.

Myanmar should allow UNHCR to play a role in the repatriation process. Access for UN and other humanitarian aid organizations into Rakhine State is key to establish if it is safe enough to return.

And the voices of the Rohingya themselves need to be heard. The large majority of Rohingya do not want to go back yet, they fear repetition of the abuses that forced them to flee.

It is primarily up to the Myanmar authorities to ensure the safety of their own population. They have the primary responsibility to protect their own people.

The many reports of grave violations and abuses of human rights, including by the military, need to be thoroughly investigated and need to be prosecuted.

We need accountability. It is crucial to ensure longtime stability in Myanmar.

We call on Myanmar to allow access for the Fact-Finding Mission, and we encourage Myanmar to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court through accession or self-referral.

The Rohingya’s return must be dignified and sustainable, so the root causes of the current crisis need to be addressed.

We call on Myanmar to establish a concrete Action Plan for the full implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission of Kofi Annan.

Living conditions need to be improved and decades of discrimination must be brought to an end. Returnees need access to appropriate shelter, not in camps, but in the villages that they fled from, and victims require proper rehabilitation. These are steps that should be taken right now.

Humanitarian challenges

Mr. President,

This brings me to my third point: humanitarian challenges, and especially the humanitarian situation in the camps in Cox Bazar.

We commend the generous efforts of Bangladesh to welcome and shelter the refugees on its soil. We are aware of the tremendous challenges the situation creates on the host communities.

The international community will continue to depend on Bangladesh as long as safe, voluntary and dignified return remains impossible. The rainy season will only increase the challenges in the Bangladeshi camps.

We should all stand ready to help Bangladesh overcome these challenges, and we encourage Bangladesh to work with UN agencies, including UNHCR, to meet them.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, for the Rohingya to be able to return to their homes and to continue their lives peacefully and sustainably in Myanmar, we call on all parties to work on the following:

  • First, a long term political solution that respects the rights of minorities;
  • Second, accountability for perpetrators of violatoins of international humanitarian law and human rights law;
  • Third, meeting the preconditions for a safe, dignified and voluntary return of Rohingya refugees;
  • And fourth, in the meantime, supporting the Bangladeshi efforts to shelter the Rohingya on their soil.

Mr. President,

The situation is so serious that we should keep this issue high on the agenda of this Council.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.