– As delivered –
Remarks by H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly
18 June 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
I take to this rostrum with a heavy heart, for in the 75th session, we have borne witness to the deterioration of the situation in Myanmar.
Political turmoil has given way to an increasingly militarised Myanmar. From the collapse of civilian rule, to arbitrary arrests, and indiscriminate attacks against civilians by the military, Myanmar is not a safe place for the people whom we have pledged to serve.
As a result of the deteriorating political situation, humanitarian needs are growing. We will hear a detailed update from the Special Envoy about the current situation; but know this: communities are being uprooted as tens of thousands of people flee violence.
The safety of these internally displaced people is at present uncertain as humanitarian access remains restricted in all conflict-afflicted areas due to insecurity, banking disruptions, road blockages and pre-existing access challenges.
Civilians are in acute need of food and shelter, as well as hygiene and sanitation facilities. Water-borne diseases are threatening the most vulnerable people who are contending with the early arrival of the rainy season.
I ask you, in the midst of a global pandemic, how are we going to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Myanmar? If people cannot safely socially distance, wash their hands, wear masks, or get vaccinated?
The multiplicity of threats facing the country is staggering.
This is not just a crisis for the people currently in Myanmar. This is a crisis for the more than one million displaced Rohingya people who have found safe shelter in Cox’s Bazar.
I commend the Government of Bangladesh for stepping up to meet the needs of its most vulnerable neighbours in their darkest hour. I was proud to represent this General Assembly on a recent visit to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
Upon arrival, the threat of a cyclone loomed large. I have truly never experienced destructive rain like this in all my life. It was a stark reminder that we cannot underestimate the impact extreme weather has on the Rohingya and their host community.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is a watch tower in Camp 8W from where you can see the full expanse of the camp. As far as the eye can see it is camp structures. Think about that for a moment – you literally cannot see life beyond the camp. The Rohingya cannot see life, or a future, beyond this camp.
The community leaders I met were clear in their message: they are grateful for safe shelter, but they want a better future. Frankly, they deserve a better future.
Their resilience is unmatched. In particular, the women I met in the camp remain undefeated despite the unimaginable horrors they have survived. They are continuing to fight– not just for their own survival, but that of their children, their community, their people.
They need their rights to citizenship and to freedom of movement to be upheld. Voluntary, dignified, and safe return is the ultimate goal, but this is contingent on conditions in Myanmar rapidly improving.
They cannot do this alone. They need the full support of the General Assembly. They need those with influence in the region to step forth and to advocate for their future.
I welcome the united voice of the Security Council on the issue of Myanmar, and I hope that this will continue. I also welcome the engagement of regional organizations, in particular ASEAN and OIC.
The international community must continue to stand united in support of the people of Myanmar, as well as peace and stability in their country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
A system built on brutality and bloodshed will not survive. It is not too late for the military to reverse the negative trajectory on the ground, exercise restraint, and respect the will of its own people.
We must raise our voices for those who have been silenced, detained, injured, or killed.
We must be ardent advocates for the protection of all fundamental human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and of peaceful assembly, which have been repeatedly infringed upon by the military-led authorities.
Heinous acts of violence against civilians and young people – including sexual and gender-based violence against women protestors – cannot continue. The indiscriminate use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable.
I call for the immediate release of all of those arbitrarily detained, and for the full and unimpeded humanitarian access which is necessary to protect those most at risk.
Above all, I call for peace in Myanmar.
The resolution before you is another step in this direction. I hope that this resolution can be adopted by consensus.
For when it comes to Myanmar we must act, as nations, united.
I trust that you, as guardians of the Charter of the United Nations, will join me in this call for peace.
I thank you.