Hundreds of Rohingya continue to flee Burma [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 13 February 2018
Allow me at the outset warmly to thank Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenča and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi, for their particularly illuminating briefings and for their commitment.
The situation of the Rohingya in Rakhine state remains a source of serious concern for France, and I would like to thank the Kuwaiti presidency of the Security Council for having organized this important exchange of views.In that context, I should like to share with the Council three lines of thinking.
1/ The first area relates to the central question of the return of the hundreds of thousands of refugees currently in Bangladesh. The considerable efforts undertaken by Bangladesh, which is hosting almost a million refugees, must be commended and supported by the international community. The agreement of 23 November last between Burma and Bangladesh on the return of refugees is a first step towards the safe, dignified and voluntary return of Rohingya refugees to their homes when conditions so permit.
Here we must acknowledge that the conditions for such a return have not been met and that major progress remains to be made. It is crucial in particular that the High Commissioner for Refugees be fully involved in these discussions as part of a tripartite agreement with Burma and Bangladesh and that it be able to assist both countries in the implementation of the return process in accordance with international standards. Moreover, it is vital that measures to be taken in Rakhine to promote reconstruction, reconciliation and respect for human rights, as recommended in the report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by Mr. Kofi Annan.
2/ Secondly, I should like to stress the need to strengthen our commitment to and our collective pressure for the full implementation of the demands made by the Council in its presidential statement of 6 November last (S/PRST/2017/22). If those demands are effectively implemented, they will contribute to creating the conditions for a safe, dignified and voluntary return of refugees.
The first requirement was to put an end to the violence in Rakhine. While it must be recognized that the level of violence has decreased recently, hundreds of Rohingya continue to flee Burma to Bangladesh, and those who have remained there are still subjected to severe discrimination and intimidation. We continue to receive disturbing reports about the appalling living conditions of those who remain. Many villages have been razed and burned to the ground. Protecting the population must therefore remain our priority.
The second significant demand from the international community is to ensure safe and unhindered access for humanitarian actors. While the International Committee of the Red Cross and, to a lesser extent, the World Food Programme today have access to Rakhine, it is far from sufficient to identify and respond to all humanitarian needs.
A third essential element of the presidential statement adopted on 6 November concerns violations of human rights. We welcome the adoption by the General Assembly last December of the resolution on human rights in Burma (General Assembly resolution 72/248) and call for its full implementation. We condemn the serious human rights violations that continue to be committed in Burma, particularly in Rakhine. A few days ago, a documented Reuters investigation uncovered unacceptable atrocities in a Rohingya against humanity. The two journalists conducting the investigation are currently detained. We call for the immediate release, just as we reiterate our commitment to the freedom of the press and the protection of journalists, who must be able to exercise their profession freely, without fear of being intimidated or arrested. Respect for those freedoms is one of the foundations of any democratic society. It is essential to shed light on human rights violations and to combat impunity. In that regard, we call on the Burmese authorities to cooperate with human rights actors, including the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar and the Special Rapporteur. We further call upon the Burmese authorities to provide all the necessary access to the team of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and to UNICEF. Human rights are part of the solution, and guaranteeing its full respect will help create the conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees.
That brings me to the last request of the presidential statement — which I once again underscore today — namely, the full implementation of the recommendations drawn up by the Commission chaired by Kofi Annan. Burma is faced with many challenges. Those of democratic transition and reconciliation among communities, which make Burma such a rich and diverse country, are arguably the largest and most important for the future of the country. National reconciliation will lead to a solution to the crisis in Rakhine state. Full citizenship, the freedom of movement, equal access to basic services and respect for the right to property should be granted to every person without discrimination, regardless of their ethnic or religious origin. The report of the Rakhine Advisory Commission provides a road map for the Burmese authorities to address the root causes of the Rakhine crisis and create conditions for sustainable coexistence among communities. France encourages the Burmese authorities to continue to implement those recommendations, with the support of the group of independent experts appointed to that end.
3/ My third, and last, comment touches on the importance of the international community, and in particular the United Nations, remaining fully mobilized on that subject. While the steps taken by the Burmese authorities are a first step, the commitments must continue to be translated into action. Much progress remains to be made in each of the areas mentioned in the presidential statement adopted by the Council on 6 November. It is essential that the international community, especially by means of the Council, remain extremely vigilant and actively engaged. The next appointment of a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General will allow us to lend further support to that end.
France reiterates its support for the Burmese democratic transition and the efforts of the Government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in that regard. In the face of the tragedy in Rakhine, France will continue to insist, particularly within the Security Council, on the urgent need to put an end to the violence and discrimination against the Rohingya, deliver unhindered humanitarian assistance to the population in need of it and facilitate, when conditions are right, the safe, voluntary and sustainable return of refugees. France will continue its dialogue with the Burmese authorities to that effect, proceeding the visit made to Burma by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last November.