We applaud the UN Secretary General António Guterres for his frank admission of the failure of the international community to address the Rohingya crisis. After having visited refugee camps in Bangladesh, the SG has penned an opinion piece for the Washington Post newspaper in which he expressed his frustration over the lack of help for the refugees and called for renewed international efforts. We feel the UN, too, has a lot more to do.
While Mr Guterres asked Myanmar to create conditions for the return of the refugees with “full rights”, an outline deal the UN struck with Myanmar fails to guarantee full rights—neither citizenship nor freedom of movement—for potentially repatriated Rohingya refugees. The deal was so guarded that even the UN's own special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, was kept in the dark about it until it was leaked. And, the UN chief has defended the agreement, terming it as “concession.” Such a contrasting stance of the UN chief himself is at best disappointing.
In his piece, while Mr Guterres reinforced the notion that the Rohingya people were subjected to an ethnic cleansing campaign in Myanmar, he came short of calling the slaughtering what it actually was: genocide—an extermination campaign.
We appreciate the important role that the UN has been playing since the onset of the crisis including efforts to raise global awareness about the plight of these refugees and address the humanitarian crisis. However, neither the “expression of solidarity” nor a USD 1 billion humanitarian assistance fund is enough; the Rohingya people need concrete efforts from the international community and the UN for justice and for the return with a genuine guarantee of “full rights.”