UN chief slams Myanmar during visit to Rohingyas’ ‘human rights nightmare’

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim meet Rohingya refugees in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on July 2, 2018. Photo: Twitter / Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated Myanmar’s culpability for atrocities committed against the Rohingya during a visit yesterday to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, where around 700,000 Rohingya have sought refuge from military operations in Rakhine State.

“It is probably one of the most tragic, historic, systematic violations of human rights,” Guterres told reporters while in the camp, which is thought to be the world’s largest.

“Sometimes, people tend to forget who is responsible for what happened. So, let’s be clear where the responsibility is – it is in Myanmar,” he said.

A recent report by Amnesty International detailed the specific crimes that 13 Myanmar military and police officials are alleged to have committed during the operations that triggered the exodus of Rohingya from Rakhine State.

Guterres also described the plight of Rohingya living in makeshift shelters, some of whom shared with him stories of rape and other violence committed by Myanmar security forces, as a “humanitarian and human rights nightmare.”

The secretary general’s comments echo his assertion in Sept. 2017 that Myanmar was guilty of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. He said the international community has “an obligation to put pressure on Myanmar for the situation to change there.”

The visits, during which Guterres was accompanied by World Bank head Jim Yong Kim, came says after the text of a secret agreement between two UN agencies and the Myanmar government leaked to the public. The agreement is meant to serve as a framework for the “creation of conditions for the return of Rohingya refugees,” but it has been criticized for lacking details on how the safety of returnees will be guaranteed.

Rohingya refugees held protests against the agreement in the Kutupalong camp during Secretary General Guterres’s visit.

Guterres later said the agreement was a “first step” in the process of securing “progressive recognition of the rights of these people.”

World Bank chief Kim said his visit to the camp showed him “one of the most disturbing situations we’ve ever seen.”

“I was appalled, but the entire world should be appalled by what we’re seeing,” he said.

Last week, the World Bank pledged a US$480 million grant to Bangladesh to be spent on providing health, education, water, sanitation, and social protection to Rohingya refugees.

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