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Updated On: Sunday, 22 September 2019

Blanchett on Rohingya Crisis

Content by: South-South News

4 September 2018, New York, USA | South-South News — Actress and goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),Cate Blanchett, told the Security Council on August 28 that she saw her own children “in the eyes of every refugee child” she met during her visit to Rohingya refugee settlements in Bangladesh adding that their “experiences will never leave” her.

Blanchett, who visited Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh in March, said nothing could have prepared her for the extent and depth of suffering she witnessed. She reported on stories she heard by victims of torture and abuse, and people whose loved ones had been killed before their eyes; including children who saw their grandparents locked in houses and set alight.

“I am a mother, and I saw my children in the eyes of every refugee child that I met. I saw myself in every parent,” she said, “How can any mother endure seeing her child thrown into a fire? Their experiences will never leave me. This is why I am immensely grateful that the Security Council - the principle body responsible for international peace and security - is working in unison to resolve this crisis.”

The Goodwill ambassador reminded Council members that the latest wave of massive displacement was not the first endured by the Rohingya population adding that there are more Rohingya living in exile today than in Myanmar itself. She said Bangladesh’s recent response in receiving over 700,000 refugees in a matter of months was one of the most visible and significant gestures of humanity in our time, but much more international support was needed. She said refugees in Cox’s Bazar continued to live in squalid conditions and, with only 33 percent of the refugee operation funded, this was “not surprising; rather it is quite embarrassing.” She added, “Many Bangladeshi villagers living nearby, with little to call their own, have been helping the Rohingya refugees over the past year. If people with so little can step up, why can't we do better?”

Blanchett said many refugees she spoke with consider Myanmar their home but have real, deep fears about returning there.“The Rohingya cannot return to the very conditions they were forced to flee. They cannot settle for half solutions. They must know that they belong. A clear pathway to full citizenship is essential. This is not a luxury. This is not a privilege. This is a basic right that all of us here enjoy. A right that the Rohingya do not have,” she said.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the massive refugee emergency that began one year ago in Rakhine State has become one of the world’s worst humanitarian and human rights crises. He said he condemned the attacks by extremists against the security forces, but stressed that they could never justify the disproportionate use of force against civilian populations and the gross human rights violations committed by the Myanmar security forces and their allies.

Guterres said accountability was essential for genuine reconciliation between all ethnic groups and a prerequisite for regional security and stability. However, he said Myanmar has regrettably refused to cooperate with United Nations human rights entities and mechanisms, despite repeated calls to do so, including by the Security Council. He noted that the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar found patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses committed by the security forces, which it said undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.

“I believe this report’s findings and recommendations deserve serious consideration by all relevant United Nations bodies,” he said, “Effective international cooperation will be critical to ensuring that accountability mechanisms are credible, transparent, impartial, independent and comply with Myanmar’s obligations under international law.”

The Secretary-General said much remained to be done to provide the necessary conditions for peace and justice in Rakhine. He noted that so long as a climate of fear and persecution prevails, voluntary returns would not take place.

Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN U Hau Do Suan said the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out terrorist attacks in October 2016 and March 2017 in a premeditated manner to incite violence and attract international attention to the issue at a time when the whole world was welcoming the country’s peaceful democratic transition. He said ARSA and their foreign masterminds knew too well that the Myanmar security forces would respond their attack with full force and must have anticipated the exodus of people from northern Rakhine to Bangladesh.

“Our gathering here today could have been a different one had there been no terrorist attack,” he said, “It could have been a happier occasion to stock taking the implementation of the Rakhine AdvisoryCommission or an international pledging conference to help poverty alleviation and [long pause], sorry, and socio-economic development of all communities in Rakhine. The provocative terrorist attacks of October 2016 and August 2017 have affected the course of our earnest endeavor to build a peaceful, fair and prosperous future for the people of Rakhine. But, nothing shall stop our determination to continue our effort to achieve our objectives.”

U Hau Do Suan said his government shared deep sympathy and concern for all displaced persons, especially women and children. However, he added that this was not the time for exploiting the plight of innocent people for self-interest and political grandstanding.

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