Continued support vital as Myanmar proceeds with transition process, says Ban

A Rohingya woman and her child at a makeshift camp outside Sittwe in Myanmar's western Rakhine State. Photo: IRIN

10 July 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today told a group of Myanmar's international partners that continued support will be vital for the country, which has taken some important steps in the past year, but faces a number of challenges, including national reconciliation and communal violence.

“The Government and people of Myanmar need continued support to move towards a truly irreversible reform process and to deliver the dividends of peace and inclusive development,” Mr. Ban said in his opening remarks to the meeting in New York of the Group of Friends of Myanmar.

He noted important steps taken in the past year, including the advancement of the reform process by the Parliament. At the same time, peace and reconciliation with armed ethnic groups remains a pressing priority.

“Sustainable peace will require an inclusive process of political dialogue that results in viable arrangements for power and resource sharing,” he said.

Mr. Ban said that he was deeply troubled by the communal violence that swept Rakhine state and elsewhere, and that he remains deeply concerned about the plight of the Rohingya population and their “disturbing” humanitarian situation.

Several waves of clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, the first of which occurred in June 2012, have affected hundreds of thousands of families in the country's western region. Some 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya, remain displaced in Rakhine and tens of thousands of others have fled by boat.

“There is a dangerous polarization taking place within Myanmar,” warned Mr. Ban. “If it is not addressed urgently and firmly, underlying tensions could provoke more upheaval, undermining the reform process and triggering negative regional repercussions.”

He added that it will be important for the Myanmar authorities to take necessary steps to address the legitimate grievances of minority communities, including the citizenship demands of the Rohingya in Rakhine.

Mr. Ban said he plans to write to Myanmar's three key leaders, urging them to work together to squarely address communal concerns and to make a united call to the people of Myanmar to end all violence and incitement, respect the law and promote peace.

“Now is the time for communal harmony and promoting the positive winds of change and reform.”

Noting that Myanmar faces challenges inherent in any major social transformation, Mr. Ban said his Special Adviser, Vijay Nambiar, will remain closely engaged as the country's leadership “steers the country through its current troubled waters.”

He also pledged continued UN support to Myanmar as it faces key milestones, including the 2015 elections. “The coordination of international support will be needed during this period,” he added.

Formed in 2007, the Group of Friends comprises more than a dozen nations and regional blocs and is designed to serve as a consultative forum for developing a shared approach in support of the Secretary-General's good offices mandate on Myanmar. It last met during the 67th UN General Assembly in New York in September 2012.

At today's meeting, the Group welcomed the continued progress with reforms but also noted key challenges facing the country that needed to be addressed urgently as it moved on the path of democratization, national development and national reconciliation.

The Group noted in particular, according to a read-out, the outcome of the latest peace talks in Kachin, with many members expressing the hope that this would pave the way for a nationwide comprehensive ceasefire and peace process involving all the various ethnic groups in Myanmar.

They stressed the urgent need for effective action to punish the perpetrators of the communal violence, guarantee respect for the fundamental rights of all peoples irrespective of ethnicity or religion, as well as for urgent attention to address the underlying causes of these difficulties, including the issue of citizenship for the Rohingyas.

Mr. Ban expressed his confidence that Myanmar would continue to make all-around progress in strengthening its democratic institutions, achieving rapid economic development through reform and opening up, and in forging national reconciliation between the various ethnic groups as well as promoting harmony and cohesion among the communities within the country.


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