Time to work together with UN, State Counsellor says

By Lun Min Mang (Myanmar Times)
The government will work with two UN agencies on the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Bangladesh and in rebuilding conflict-torn Rakhine State, the office of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in a statement.

The statement released on Tuesday said the time has come to work with the United Nations, and the government is discussing the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the world body’s two leading agencies – the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

 The government said it believes it is the ‘appropriate time’ for the two UN agencies to work alongside the ministries and the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development for ‘the good for all people in Rakhine’.

The UN Security Council delegation, which visited Myanmar this week, urged the government to speed up the signing of the MoU with the two UN bodies so that they could help the administration expedite the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of refugees living in camps in Bangladesh.

 “The government of Myanmar is pleased with working in partnership with the United Nations to deal with many serious challenges that our country faces,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was quoted in the statement as saying.

“In particular, the engagement of UN agencies in Rakhine will strengthen the government’s ability to ensure that refugees can return safety, without fear,” she added.

She said the government and the UN must work hard on repatriating the refugees while resolving the causes of the recent violence.

“I am confident that this is an important turning point,” she said.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also said the refugees must have “safe, dignified and voluntary” return. She highlighted that the recommendations by the Rakhine Advisory Commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan “set out practical measures necessary to achieve development for all communities in Rakhine based on clear respect for rule of law and human rights.

“These recommendations will contribute to the implementation of the government’s efforts to bring peace, stability, and development to Rakhine,” she was quoted in the statement as saying.

The exodus of hundreds of thousands of Muslims to Bangladesh followed two episodes of violent attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army against government security outposts in northern Rakhine and a a brutal military counterinsurgency campaign. The government has designated the group as a terrorist organisation.

According to the UN, the number of people who have fled the violence could be more than 750,000.

Repatriation of the refugees was scheduled to begin in January but could not be started after Myanmar authorities found that “repatriation documents” filed by the refugees did not match the documents agreed to by the two governments.

The UNSC delegation has urged the two sides to speed up the repatriation.

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