UN chief names envoy for Myanmar amid concern over well-being of Rohingya
by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, April 26 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed the Swiss ambassador to Germany as his special envoy for Myanmar while the world organization voiced extreme concern about the humanitarian situation in the southeast Asian nation.
Christine Schraner Burgener brings over 25 years of experience in diplomacy, having served in various high-level government positions in the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Thursday.
She has served as Swiss ambassador to Germany since 2015 and from 2009 to 2015 as ambassador to Thailand.
The announcement came as the 15-member Security Council departs UN Headquarters for a visit to Myanmar and, according to Western council diplomats, to look into the allegations of violence forcing the Rohingya to flee northern Rakhine State into Bangladesh.
Myanmar is confounded by not only the Rohingya crisis in the country's west but also the simmering Kachin rebellion in the country's northeast.
The UN Refugee Agency says more than 670,000 Rohingya people have fled violence into neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 and there have been reports of civilian deaths in Kachin State.
"The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the situation in Rakhine State remains extremely concerning," Dujarric said. "There are continued reports of departures from northern Rakhine and some reports of threats and extortion against Muslim communities."
"Bulldozing of burned or abandoned villages remains evident, and the movement restrictions placed upon Rohingya communities remain in place, including for those trapped in camps (for internally displaced people) for the last six years in central Rakhine," he said.
Most of the recent refugees, ethnic Muslims in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, came from northern Rakhine State.
"There is a population of around 500,000 Rohingya still living in Rakhine who face continued discrimination and marginalization," the spokesman said. "Severe restrictions on their freedom of movement persist, grossly restricting their access to healthcare, education and livelihoods."
"Therefore, our humanitarian colleagues stress that refugees from Bangladesh cannot be expected to safely, voluntarily and sustainably return," Dujarric said.
"The United Nations stands ready to work with the government of Myanmar in implementing the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission."
A group of Rohingya and Myanmar activists called on members of the Security Council to define confidence-building measures that will create conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
"We continue to hear reports of violence by the security forces, systematic theft of property, sexual violence, and abductions (in Rakhine State)," said Tun Khin of the Britain-based Burmese Rohingya Organization in a statement released in New York. "The Security Council should insist that the Burmese authorities take concrete steps to reverse this situation, hold perpetrators accountable, and generate trust."
Burma is the former name for Myanmar and Burmese for its people.
The refugees in Bangladesh, mostly in the crowded Kutupalong camp in the Cox's Bazar area, are bracing for monsoon rains expected to flood their sites imminently.