The Alternate Leader of Myanmar Delegation to the 74th UNGA and Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin apprised the United Nations Secretary General and ASEAN Foreign Ministers on Myanmar’s cooperation with ASEAN in addressing the issue of Rakhine at the ASEAN-UN Ministerial Meeting (AUMM) held on 28 September 2019 at the United Nations Headquarters, New York. The President of the seventy-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly, Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General and UN high-level officials also attended the meeting.
The Union Minister made the brief intervention in response to United Nations Secretary General’s remarks calling for ASEAN to take an active and effective role in resolving the massive displacement of people from Rakhine State and the root causes of the problem at the Meeting.
In his response, Union Minister U Kyaw Tin explained that the issue of Rakhine is one of the complex challenges faced by Myanmar on its nascent transition to democracy and the government is striving through a holistic approach for long term stability and sustainable development in the State. The government is now focusing on expediting repatriation and creating a conductive condition for the returnees and the local ethnic peoples in cooperation with ASEAN, UN and the development partners.
The Union Minister informed that Myanmar has been working closely with ASEAN Secretary General’s Secretariat team and the AHA Centre in facilitating the repatriation process. The ASEAN-ERAT Team has come up with its Preliminary Needs Assessment report in May 2019 with three recommendations in identifying the areas of cooperation. Myanmar and ASEAN have put in place a Technical Working Group which is now focussing on implementation of the three recommendations.
He added that the meeting that ASEAN had also joined the Myanmar High-level delegation’s visit to Cox’s Bazaar to explain the displaced persons to explain about the arrangements made for their return. He assured that his work of ASEAN AHA team will not substitute but complement and reinforce the ongoing work of the UNHCR and UNDP. He also informed that ASEAN ERAT team was also present together with Myanmar officials at the reception centre in Rakhine State on the agreed date of the repatriation on 22 August 2019. Unfortunately, no one was sent back from Bangladesh on that day. But there were over 230 peoples who have come back voluntarily with their own arrangements and are resuming their normal lives in safe and secure condition.
The Union Minister also pointed out that there are many obstacles, including destructive movements of ARSA in the Cox’s Bazaar camps hindering repatriation and exploiting the plights of displaced persons for their political agenda. Smooth and successful repatriation requires genuine political will and committed efforts as well as strict adherence to the signed Agreements. He reaffirmed that Myanmar is fully committed to take back the verified returnees based on the bilateral Agreements signed with Bangladesh and the trilateral agreement signed with UNHCR and UNDP.
The Union Minister added that Myanmar has been making efforts in creating conducive environment for voluntary, safe and dignified return of verified displaced persons in cooperation with ASEAN, UN and our bilateral partners. As it is a migrant-related issue involving the two neighbors, bilateral mean is the only viable way to resolve the issue. The international community ignores the need to address the main obstacles for repatriation which is the threat of ARSA terror group to those wishing to return. Recently, the DW TV reported the dangerous movements of ARSA in the Cox’s Bazar Camp. Bangladesh must not allow ARSA’s activities on its soil which can become a security threat to not only to Myanmar but also to Bangladesh and beyond. There is an urgent need to create a safe environment for the displaced persons in Cox’s Bazar to express their free will to return.
The Union Minister also informed the meeting that the recent tripartite meeting held in New York has agreed to set up an informal working group meeting among the Ambassadors of Myanmar and China in Dhaka and Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh to discuss about repatriation. If one wishes to make Rakhine a secure and stable environment for the returnees, the government’s capacity to provide security and basic services for all communities must be strengthened not weakened. To that end, he concluded by welcoming the constructive support of partners willing to help with sincerity in resolving the problem.