Myanmar must work with UN on Rakhine: US congressional delegation


Senator Jeff Merkley.

The US congressional delegation now in Myanmar have called upon the country's leadership to work with the UN to facilitate the return and rehabilitation of Rohingya refugees and ensure credible investigations into the atrocities in Rakhine in the last three months.

Led by Senator Jeff Merkley, the delegation however condemned the serial attacks by the ARSA terrorists on Aug 24-24 and said it was important to track their backers and those funding them. 

''The world is watching. It is important for Myanmar to deliver on promises by its government to take and resettle the Rohingyas when they come back." said Senator Merkley.

He told journalists they were aware of the civil-military dynamics in Myanmar but insisted that the government has to 'include' the UN in both the repatriation process and in doing credible investigations to get to the bottom of the truth about what happened in Rakhine. 

Senator Merkley said they were in Myanmar in response to Aung San Suu Kyi's invitation to foreign countries to send representatives to 'come and see for themselves' the situation in Myanmar.

''But though we are happy we could visit all communities in Sittwe, we are saddened that we did not get permission to visit the camps in the violence hit area of Rakhine state" said Senator Merkley. 

He said Myanmar will have to address both the root causes of the problem in Rakhine and also the huge refugee problem that Bangladesh has so far handled by opening its doors to the refugees and by interacting closely with the international community.

He called for implementation of the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission, full access to humanitarian organisations in Rakhine, for working with Bangladesh and UN for voluntary and safe return of the refugees, for ensuring freedom of movement for Rohingyas after they return and for full and credible investigation into the 'horrific atrocities' that have happened in Rakhine.

Senator Merkley said the US was keen to work with Myanmar to facilitate its economic development but more to ensure its democracy flourishes on the foundation of a strong human rights regime.

"Unless that is assured, no country can claim to have a democracy,'' he said.

Senator Merkley reiterated the UN position that the atrocities in Rakhine bore ''all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.''

He said his delegation was appalled by the plight of Rohingyas in Sittwe where they have to spend four hours collecting necessary documents to visit a hospital just five minutes away.

''No country can build a democracy where prejudices against a community was so deep-rooted,'' he said.

The delegation has already visited Bangladesh and met with government officials and ministers and also the refugees.

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