Myanmar is not safe for Rohingyas to return: UN investigator



The UN’s independent investigator on Myanmar says it’s not safe for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh to return because Myanmar has failed to dismantle its “system of persecution” of Rohingyas.

Yanghee Lee said in a report to the General Assembly circulated Friday that living conditions for the remaining Rohingya in northern Rakhine state “remain dreadful.”

“The Rohingya can’t leave their villages and earn a living making them dependent on humanitarian aid whose access has been so heavily diminished that their basic means for survival has been affected,” she said.

“While this situation persists, it is not safe or sustainable for refugees to return,” said the UN special rapporteur appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

Lee also expressed concern that a household-counting exercise in Rohingya villages “is an effort to erase the Rohingya from administrative records and make their return less possible.”

She said that the government’s requirement that any refugee who returns must be issued a national verification card, is not a solution to citizenship for the Rohingya.

Rohingya Muslims demand that Myanmar give them citizenship, safety, and their land and homes they left behind.

The Buddhist-majority nation has refused to recognize Rohingya as citizens or even as one of its ethnic groups, rendering them stateless.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh after Myanmar’s military began a harsh counterinsurgency campaign against them in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack.

The campaign, which has been called ethnic cleansing, involved mass rapes, killings, and the burning of Rohingya homes.

Lee said: “There are nearly 913,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, near the Myanmar border, including thousands who fled before 2017 and about 1,100 who arrived between January and July.”

Lee said she “continues to receive reports of beatings and killings and the burning of houses and rice stores.”

Lee said the government’s conflict with the Arakan Army, a guerrilla force from the Buddhist ethnic group seeking autonomy for Rakhine, is also affecting the remaining Rohingya in northern Rakhine.

“In April, possibly dozens of Rohingya were killed when government helicopters fired on them while they were collecting firewood in south Buthidaung,” she said.

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