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As New UN Envoy Visits Myanmar, Politicians Warn Against a ‘One-Sided’ Perspective on Rakhine Crisis

Asia-Pacific

As New UN Envoy Visits Myanmar, Politicians Warn Against a ‘One-Sided’ Perspective on Rakhine Crisis

As New UN Envoy Visits Myanmar, Politicians Warn Against a ‘One-Sided’ Perspective on Rakhine Crisis

2018-06-12
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (R) greets Christine Schraner Burgener, the U.N.'s new special envoy on Myanmar, at U.N. headquarters in New York, May 22, 2018.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (R) greets Christine Schraner Burgener, the U.N.’s new special envoy on Myanmar, at U.N. headquarters in New York, May 22, 2018.

Photo courtesy of the United Nations

As the new United Nations envoy to Myanmar began her first visit to the Southeast Asian nation and neighboring Bangladesh on Tuesday, Myanmar politicians and lawmakers cautioned that the diplomat should refrain from a “one-sided” approach to the crisis in Rakhine state.

Christine Schraner Burgener, a former Swiss ambassador to Germany and Thailand, who was appointed to her new role by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on April 26, will speak with Myanmar authorities, ethnic armed organizations, civil society organizations, religious leaders, and diplomats primarily about troubled Rakhine state, Myanmar’s peace process and democratization, and human rights issues.

Burgener will also meet with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, said Monywa Aung Shin, secretary of the Central Information Committee of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government.

“I hope they can talk openly,” he said. “I think we will have a good result from her visit. The previous U.N. envoys did their work with a one-sided perspective, so I hope this one can begin her work by drawing lessons from the previous envoys’ experiences.”

Myanmar has accused U.N. officials of being biased in their assessments of a crackdown by security forces that targeted Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state following deadly attacks on police outposts by a Muslim militant group in August 2017.

The U.N. and the United States have said that the violent campaign that left more than 1,000 dead and forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya to flee to safety in Bangladesh amounted to ethnic cleansing. The Myanmar government has denied that soldiers committed most of the violence and defended the operation as a counterinsurgency against terrorists.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution in December asking Guterres to appoint an envoy and calling on the Myanmar government to allow access for aid workers, ensure the return of all refugees, and grant full citizenship to the stateless Rohingya, whom Myanmar considers illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Change in attitude

Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the National Democracy Force, a political party formed in 2010 as a breakaway faction of the NLD, noted a change in attitude by the government, which previously refused to allow a U.N.-mandated commission into the country to investigate the situation in Rakhine.

The government also barred Yanghee Lee, the U.N.’s human rights rapporteur for Myanmar, from visiting the country because of her criticism of its handling of the crackdown, which she said bore the “hallmarks of genocide.”

A group of U.N. Security Council diplomats who visited northern Rakhine state in late April to assess the situation on the ground amid a program to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh called for a “proper” investigation into atrocities committed during the crackdown.

Just six days ago, Myanmar signed an agreement with the U.N.’s refugee and development agencies to assist with the repatriation of some of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya living in overcrowded displacement camps in Bangladesh.

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