17 July 2018

Note to Correspondents: Visit of the United Nations Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar to Bangladesh

United Nations Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener conducted her first official visit to Bangladesh from 14 to 16 July.  In Dhaka, she met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Director General of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, Major General Md. Saiful Abedin, Foreign Secretary Md. Shahidul Haque, the diplomatic community, and the UN country team.  In Cox’s Bazar, she held discussions with the population in the Kutupalong camp, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam, and Senior Coordinator Sumbul Rizvi and the members of the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG).  She is grateful for the work of the humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organisations in the challenging environment. 

Following the joint visit of the Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank to Bangladesh earlier this month, the Special Envoy discussed the plight of the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and expressed her sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Bangladesh, in particular the host communities, for the efforts to accept and provide assistance to thepeople seeking refuge from violence.  The Special Envoy underlined the need for greater international assistance to the refugees and host communities in addressing the harsh conditions they continue to face and also in terms of mitigating the risk of monsoons.   

The ongoing crisis requires a political solution that addresses the underlying issues. In Cox’s Bazar, she visited the sprawling refugee camps and heard from the people accounts of unimaginable atrocities committed in Rakhine State.  The Special Envoy was deeply moved by their personal stories and their strength. Despite these serious violations of human rights, they expressed to the Envoy their hope to return home if security could be guaranteed and citizenship could be provided.    In all discussions during the visit, the Special Envoy also underlined the importance of accountability for the crimes committed.  

Updating the interlocutors on her recent visits to Myanmar and stressing to them the importance of the principles of the United Nations, including promotion and protection of human rights, the Special Envoy expressed her support to the implementation of the 23 November 2017 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Bangladesh and Myanmar, and the 6 June 2018 MOU between the Government of Myanmar, UNHCR and UNDP as important first steps. She stressed that their implementation should begin as soon as possible along with other measures towards a conducive environment for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of the people to their place of origin or choice. It remains her priority to help address the root causes of the crisis, including through the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, in particular ending restrictions on basic rights such as freedom of movement and resolving the citizenship issue.  There is an urgency for all concerned to take concrete measures towards these goals.  The Special Envoy emphasized that the United Nations stood ready to provide relevant experiences and expertise in this regard.

The Special Envoy advised her interlocutors that the Organisation would soon establish her main supporting office in Nay Pyi Taw. She plans to visit New York next week, including to provide a briefing to the Security Council, and to visit Myanmar again in early September.