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Myanmar: Urgent international action crucial to save lives of thousands of Rohingya in Rakhine State says UN expert

23 May 2024

GENEVA (23 May 2024) – Thousands of innocent lives will be lost if the international community fails to respond to ominous signs of another Rohingya bloodbath in Rakhine State, a UN expert said today.

“Once again, the world seems to be failing a desperate people in their hour of peril while a hate-driven unnatural disaster unfolds in real time in Myanmar’s Rakhine State,” said Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.

“While the military-imposed internet shutdown makes it challenging to get information from Northern Rakhine, alarming and credible reports of killings, enforced disappearances, and widespread arson are emerging,” Andrews said.

Satellite imagery reveals the burning of large parts of the Buthidaung town, with reports that tens of thousands of Rohingya are being displaced.

“Information that has already emerged from northern Rakhine State more than warrants an immediate emergency response by the international community,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“With multiple armed groups actors operating in Rakhine, including the Myanmar military, the Arakan Army, and Rohingya groups, including the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, I call on all to adhere to international humanitarian law and take all steps to protect innocent civilian lives, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Mechanisms to provide emergency humanitarian aid must be immediately established and all parties must support the robust infusion of aid into Rakhine,” the expert said.

“While an investigation must ultimately uncover the truth and justice must be pursued to hold those responsible fully accountable, the military’s role is clear in fostering toxic conditions in Rakhine State, from propaganda fueling ethnic tensions to the forced recruitment of young Rohingya men into the junta’s military.”

Andrews recalled that by opening its border in 2017, Bangladesh saved the lives of untold numbers of Rohingya who fled in the face of genocidal attacks.

“Once again, Bangladesh’s generosity may be their only hope as large groups of Rohingya are forcibly displaced and move towards the border. I urgently appeal to the Government of Bangladesh to reverse its closed border policy and demonstrate their humanitarian support for the Rohingya once again,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur warned however that Bangladesh does not have the capacity to meet the demands of this crisis without the emergency intervention and support of the international community. Rations cuts, inadequate infrastructure, spiraling violence, and reported forced recruitment by Rohingya militant groups have threatened the lives and wellbeing of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. He urged all States to provide an emergency infusion of funds to help rescue and support desperate families fleeing conflict and address the current conditions in the camps.

“The choice of these States to either step up or step away from this horror could literally be a matter of life and death for countless Rohingya,” Andrews said.

Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar

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