International community required to unite to establish an accountability mechanism for atrocities across Myanmar as systematic violence targeting the remaining Rohingya people continued in Rakhine state, UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee said in Dhaka on Sunday.
Rohingya people would not be able to return in the near future as the Myanmar government did not make any progress in dismantling the system of discrimination in the country’s laws, policies and practices to make northern Rakhine safe and stable, she observed.
‘Come together and establish an accountability mechanism,’ she urged the international community at a press conference, ending her 10-day visit to Cox’s Bazar.
‘It is time now to work instead of only talking,’ Lee said.
Myanmar authorities should stop using vague terminology such as a ‘pathway to citizenship’ in instruments signed at bilateral and multilateral levels on Rohingya repatriation, she said, adding that successive governments of the country placed Rohingyas for years ‘on a pathway away from the citizenship rights they previously enjoyed.’
She stressed the need for engaging ‘organic’ representatives of the Rohingya people in all phases designed for their repatriation.
Many of them would be unable to go to home just 10 minutes away from their makeshift shelters on the other side of the border, she said.
Lee said Rohingya people now required opportunities for education, explore livelihood options and freedom of movement for getting basic needs, including treatments.
The UN rights expert alleged that she requested for access to India to see Rohingyas living in the country but did not get any response from the authorities.
About 7,00,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017.
The ongoing Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 11, 16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.
Bangladesh and Myanmar were engaged in a slow process of preparations with the UN agencies for starting the repatriation of Rohingyas.
The two governments have signed three instruments since November 23, 2017, for the return of Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh after October 2016, as the Rohingya exodus from Rakhine continued.
Bangladesh and Myanmar governments signed two memorandums of understanding with UN agencies to ensure voluntariness of the return and facilitate safe and dignified return to Rakhine state.
Lee, who was appointed special rapporteur by the UNHRC in 2014, would present separate reports to the UN general assembly and the UNHRC about the situation.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Foreign affairs