Yanghee Lee says

No Rohingya return from BD in sight

27 January 2019 bdnews24.com

A UN human rights expert does not expect Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar from Bangladesh anytime soon.  "It is clear that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh cannot return to Myanmar in the near future," the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said on Friday.
She asked the government to draw long-term plan for their livelihood in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh was set to start repatriation in mid-November, but had to cancel it as Rohingyas refused to go in fear of safety and security in the Rakhine State.
"The solution lies within Myanmar but it is not creating conditions for their return, rather it has remained engaged in a sustained campaign of violence and intimidation," Lee said at the press briefing before leaving Dhaka.
The UN human rights expert said the Myanmar government was consolidating what military governments worked towards over many years, defying a pledge to transition to a fully functioning democracy under civilian control.
"Democratic freedoms are ever fragile," said Lee at the end of her 10-day mission to Bangladesh.
"Communities are divided based on religion and ethnicity, and members of minorities face marginalization and discrimination. Ethnic nationalities continue to be subject to domination by the central government and the military, despite the official stance that they are working for peace to be brought to the country."
Lee expressed serious concern about the situation in the strife-stricken states of Kachin, Shan and Rakhine.
She noted that despite a unilateral ceasefire in Kachin and Shan states, there continues to be fighting between ethnic armed organisations that is increasing instability and insecurity for civilians.
In Rakhine State, the escalating fighting between the military and the Arakan Army is "very worrisome, especially because the government and military have disallowed humanitarian access", she said.
The special rapporteur said fighting was going in in Kayin State, and new military bases have been built in Kayah State.
"From the discussions I had with Rohingya this week in Bangladesh, it is evident that Myanmar is not working to create conditions for return for the Rohingya but is engaging in a sustained campaign of violence, intimidation and harassment."
"I spoke to one woman who arrived in Cox's Bazar a matter of days ago after her father was stabbed to death by Myanmar security forces.
"A man I spoke to told me that he and his entire family fled recently after his mother and sister were abducted and raped. "During my visit, I received videos of houses burning in Maungdaw township, the second such incident to occur in Maungdaw in 2019 alone.
"According to information gathered by my team, the houses were burned by Myanmar security forces working in concert with Rakhine extremists.
"The campaign of violence against the Rohingya continues, with the security forces slowly bleeding the remaining Rohingya population and continuing to force them to flee to Bangladesh."
Lee visited the zero Line, the area along the border where more than 4,000 Rohingya refugees live within walking distance of their houses a few miles away.
"A visit to this area is a lesson in Myanmar recalcitrance and highlights that authorities there are not sincere in their discussions of repatriation," she said.
"Security forces on the Myanmar side of the border are engaging in an intimidation campaign, in the apparent hope of driving this group out of the Zero Line and into Bangladesh territory.
"This includes shooting into the air to scare the community and blaring broadcasts which state that they are not Myanmar citizens and that they should leave Myanmar territory." Over 1.1 million Rohingyas now live in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar.
The independent expert, who will present a detailed report to the human rights council, said now that the election in Bangladesh has concluded, "I encourage the government to begin to engage in long-term planning and prepare the local population for this reality."
"A failure to do so will not only have negative consequences for the refugee population but also for Bangladesh, including most significantly, the host community, who have already given so much to accommodate the refugees," Lee warned. "I do not underestimate the burden that housing so many refugees is for Bangladesh. However, this burden will not be lessened by excluding Rohingya children from formal education.
"Equally, access to livelihood opportunities must also be ensured. "This is not only vital for the physical and mental well-being of the refugees but it will also provide an outlet through which the refugee population can have some positive impact on the local economy and positive engagement with the host community," she said.

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