As Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, I wish to underline that the United Nations remains seriously concerned by the developing situation in Northern Rakhine. The UN has called on the security forces to act in accordance with the rule of law and accepted international norms of conduct, and to exercise caution in avoiding disproportionate responses that could cause violence to civilians, loss of innocent lives, or damage the properties of the local population. The authorities also need to take proactive measures to protect the local civilian population and allow humanitarian access to the areas of conflict. Though the appointment of the national investigation commission by the government has raised some questions relating to its composition and mandate, I hope it will conduct its work in a credible and independent manner so as to build confidence among the local population in the affected area as well as reassure the people of Myanmar and the wider international community.
After the November visit by nine local ambassadors and the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator to several of the affected areas, various UN agencies have voiced concerns at the deteriorating human rights situation in the state. I agree with the assessment of the situation of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has just concluded a visit to the region as Chairperson of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state, including his call for unimpeded humanitarian and media access and strengthened efforts to defuse tensions and promote harmony.
In the present situation, I feel that, while taking the necessary security measures to curb any fresh outbreak of attacks by criminal elements in the region, the authorities in Myanmar must also take steps to build confidence and reassurance among the local population that their security, dignity and well-being will be protected. Those who have fled or suffered displacement should be allowed to return to their homes. Senior government leaders need to send a strong message underlining their determination to protect all residents regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender or status. In this volatile situation, it is everyone’s responsibility to handle allegations and rumors with great care.
I am persuaded that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi hears and understands the concerns of the international community. However, the refusal by the Myanmar authorities to take a strong stance against hardliners, and the adoption of a generally defensive rather than proactive approach to providing security to the local population, have caused frustration locally and disappointment internationally. Only by responding concretely to these concerns will the government be able to resolve the crisis and preserve its international standing. I call upon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to reflect on the situation and, as she has done on so many occasions, to listen to her “inner voice” and speak directly to the people of Myanmar, asking them to rise above their ethnic, religious and other differences and to advance human dignity, harmony and mutual cooperation between all communities. Meanwhile, people of all communities in Myanmar must jointly oppose the violence, disunity and division that are being instigated by a small group of criminal elements in the region. I also appeal to Daw Suu to visit Maungdaw and Buthidaung and reassure the civilian population there that they will be protected.
Furthermore, a reiteration of her promise to address the root causes affecting the local population, namely that of citizenship and status, and to provide relief to the internally displaced since 2012, would go a long way to relieve tension and promote realistic and sustainable solutions.
With respect to other parts of the country, especially the ethnic states of Shan and Kachin in northeastern Myanmar, I am deeply disappointed at the growing tensions and deadly military confrontations between the Tatmadaw and the ethnic armed groups, which is taking a toll of human lives, destabilizing the local population, impeding peace and causing a breakdown of confidence and trust, so painstakingly built up during the past few years of ceasefire negotiations between the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team and the Union Peacemaking Working Committee. At this juncture, without making any value judgment on the causes or provocations behind the present tensions, I feel, it is the responsibility of all parties to exercise restraint and avoid actions that can reverse the gains of the peace process so far. I call on all parties, groups and stakeholders to engage in urgent consultations to defuse the situation and get back to the negotiating table. As the stronger partner, the Government and Tatmadaw must show humility and respect for the minority groups. On their part, the armed groups must respect the institutional considerations and other imperatives that must guide the approach of the Government and the Tatmadaw. The United Nations stands ready to help support this process.