Myanmar: a major tragedy in Arakan [fr]
Security Council - Public Briefing on the situation in Myanmar - Speech by Mr. François Delattre - Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 12 December 2017
First of all, allow me to warmly thank Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and Ms. Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, for their very enlightening briefings.
The situation of the Rohingyas in Rakhine state remains a topic of serious concern for France, as our Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, expressed to the Burmese authorities during his visit to Burma on 20 November. The facts are known. They have been recalled. Since 25 August, 640,000 Rohingyas have had to flee from Burma to Bangladesh. Still today, hundreds of Rohingyas continue to flee to Bangadesh. Hundreds of villages have been burned. Systematic and organized human rights violations have been reported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other actors on the ground.
In that context, I wish to make three main comments.
The first relates to the implementation of presidential statement S/PRST/2017/22, adopted just a month ago. Faced with a situation of — it should be recalled — ethnic cleansing, the Security Council mobilized itself and expressed itself in very strong terms. That text, which is a road map in the light of which the Security Council is to assess the progress made, acknowledges the initial steps taken by the Burmese authorities and sets out very specific demands in order to try and alleviate the suffering of the Rohingyas.
The agreement reached on 23 November between Burma and Bangladesh on the issue of the return of refugees is a first step towards providing for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of the Rohingya refugees to Burma once conditions allow. However, significant progress still needs to be made and, to that end, it is essential that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees be included in those discussions and, in particular, fully participate in the announced joint working group.
Given the situation, we believe, particularly on the basis of the criteria established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, that the conditions needed for the return of the refugees do not yet exist. We are following the development of the situation very closely. In order to establish the conditions conducive for the return, it is essential that measures be undertaken in Rakhine to promote reconstruction, reconciliation and respect for human rights.
Progress in the humanitarian area is also insufficient. The access granted to the World Food Programme is the first positive step, which has made it possible to help those who remained in Rakhine state, but it is urgent to broaden that access in order to ensure full, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to the populations who need it.
In the realm of human rights the testimonies that continue to reach us are very disturbing. Violations continue in full impunity, while neither the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights nor the fact-finding mission has access to Rakhine state.
Some acts being carried out systematically in Rakhine state could amount to crimes against humanity. At the special session of the Human Rights Council on 5 December, High Commissioner Zeid Al-Hussein cited testimonies about young girls who had been raped or burned, had their throats cut or been gang-raped to death. Incitement to hatred on the basis of ethnicity is designed, as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General eloquently put it, to dehumanize communities such as the Rohingya and to continue to fuel the root causes of violence. We must work urgently to establish serious measures to enable us to investigate violations and prosecute the perpetrators in order to put an end to this atmosphere of impunity. It will be crucial to shine a bright light on all of these very serious accusations, including through the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission, which must be allowed to visit Rakhine state.
Lastly, with regard to implementing the recommendations of Kofi Annan’s Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, the establishment of an advisory committee of experts that includes international eminent persons just announced by the Government of Myanmar should enable regular and rigorous monitoring of the measures that have been undertaken. France encourages the Myanmar authorities to continue their efforts in that area.
My second comment is on the vulnerability of refugees and internally displaced persons to various kinds of sexual exploitation and violence. I would like to once again thank Ms. Pramila Patten warmly for her presence here today and for her testimony. The violations she has described are particularly alarming, and we must do all we can to protect the refugees and the displaced wherever they are and whenever they want to return home. We are very concerned about the information from the International Organization for Migration on the sexual exploitation and abuse even of young girls and children, which is completely unacceptable. We also condemn the early and forced marriages of young girls, some barely 10 years old, that are going on as we speak.
My third and last comment relates to the importance of ensuring that the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, remains fully prepared to act on this issue. While we should welcome the initial measures undertaken by the Burmese authorities, these commitments must now be translated into action. In each of the areas mentioned in the Security Council’s presidential statement (S/PRST/2017/22) of last month, much progress still remains to be made.
We should therefore make the mandate of the special adviser or envoy proposed in the presidential statement and in the resolution adopted a few weeks ago in the Third Committee fully operational. With appropriate resources and means, the special adviser could strengthen follow-up on this issue in the Secretariat and on efforts to work with the Burmese authorities.
France would like to reiterate its full support to the Burmese democratic transition and to the efforts of the Government led by Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi to advance the rule of law in Burma. Given the major humanitarian and human rights tragedy in Arakan, we will continue to insist, particularly in the Security Council, on the three complementary issues that must be urgently addressed — ending the violence and discrimination against the Rohingya, providing full, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to the populations in need, and facilitating the refugees’ voluntary return when the necessary conditions are established in line with international standards. France will also continue its dialogue with the Burmese authorities on the subject during the visit to Burma of our Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.