Swedish Statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on Myanmar

National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Myanmar, 24 October 2018, New York.

Thank you very much, Mr. President,

And thank you Mr. Darusman for your informative briefing. We really commend the dedicated and meticulous work of the Independent Fact-finding Mission, and we believe it was important that your report, establishing facts and circumstances of the crisis in particular in Rakhine State, could be presented to the Security Council today.

Mr. President,

We have been actively seized on the situation in Myanmar since we joined this Council in January 2017. In the beginning, our engagement was in a preventive spirit, including to support the Secretary-General. There were worrying reports and the situation grew worse.

I want to quote from the report of the Fact-finding Mission:

“What happened on 25 August 2017 and the following days and weeks was the realization of a disaster long in the making.”

So Mr. President, despite these early warning signals there was resistance, and too little was done too late to prevent this crisis of immense proportions to evolve. There should be important lessons to draw for this Council on this.

Since the peak of crisis in August last year the Council has succeeded in taking some small but important steps. In November, we unanimously adopted a Presidential Statement setting out a roadmap to address the crisis, and in April the Council undertook an unprecedented visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar to follow up on the implementation of the roadmap.

However, as all previous speakers have underlined today, too little real progress has been achieved on the ground. While some rudimentary architecture for repatriation of refugees has been put in place, the security and human rights situation in Rakhine is still far from being adequately addressed. More than 100,000 people have been confined in camps for internally displaced persons since 2012, and the government has failed to close the camps in a sustainable manner. Freedom of movement is still restricted, and media is not allowed access. Rohingya continue to flee to Bangladesh in the hundreds every month.

The Myanmar government claims that it has implemented most of the Annan Commission’s recommendations. Some steps have indeed been taken, but what is absolutely clear is that the vision set out in this important report remains distant. Most importantly, a genuine process towards resolving the issue of citizenship in a way that fully satisfies legitimate rights is still absent.

Mr. President,

Continued action by this Council with regard to the crisis in Rakhine is therefore needed, and I ‘d like to highlight four areas.  

Firstly; the UN and humanitarian partners must be allowed full and unhindered access to Rakhine State. While some limited access has been granted, including to carry out assessments in a few villages, broader access for assessment and protection is urgently needed. The MoU with UNHCR and UNDP must be fully implemented.

Secondly; conditions must be created to ensure that all those who have fled can return to their place of origin in a safe, voluntary and sustainable manner. For this to take place, refugees need dignified conditions to return to, where they can begin to rebuild their lives, free from fear and with confidence in the future.

This requires real change on the ground. We need a “new deal” in Rakhine, as the late Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated at the Arria Formula meeting in October last year. The Annan Commission report provides the framework for such a “new deal”. Genuine implementation of its recommendations is urgent.    

Thirdly; all avenues must be pursued to ensure effective accountability for the crimes committed. Today’s presentation by the UN mandated Fact-finding Mission has provided the Council with solid and credible evidence. The Rohingya population, and other groups in Rakhine State, have been subjected to systematic and widespread human rights violations. Many of these violations undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.

We note in particular that the FFM Report includes crimes against humanity and even genocide.

The report presented to the Council today should be a turning point. The Council must now take meaningful action on accountability. We should pursue consultations on a Security Council resolution, including a referral of the situation to the ICC. It is for these situations that the Council has been given the authority to make referrals to the Court.

Fourthly; the refugee camps outside Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh need continued and enhanced support. More funding is urgent. Only less than half of the response plan has so far been covered, seriously hampering humanitarian efforts. Protection in the refugee camps must be improved, not least for the most vulnerable. Particular attention should be given to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, both women and men, girls and boys.

Mr. President,

The FFM report also sheds important light on the violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights law that are being perpetrated by the Myanmar military in other parts of the country, most notably in the Kachin and Shan states. Indiscriminate air strikes, mortar shelling, and the use of land mines have a devastating impact on civilians in these regions, and humanitarian access continues to be limited.

These conflicts are among the longest ongoing armed conflicts in the world and risk to further escalate. To stay true to our commitments on prevention and sustaining peace, we should be actively addressing these situations with a more proactive UN engagement. The military and the government must redouble efforts to advance the peace process. Such a process needs to be inclusive, with meaningful participation of women.

To achieve lasting peace, a political solution is needed that addresses the aspirations and grievances of all Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, and ends the culture of impunity in the country, as forcefully underlined by Mr. Darusman today.

Mr. President,

Myanmar is at a crossroads and now has a historic decision to make. Either it chooses the path towards more repression and growing international isolation, or it chooses the path of justice, peace and prosperity.

If it is the latter, the international community stands ready to support. Regional actors have a critical role to play. The UN Special Envoy’s positive engagement to build trust is needed, and should now be translated into concrete steps forward. The UN and its partners have the capacity to support peace, humanitarian and longer-term development efforts.

We cannot expect the government to solve everything overnight. But steps are urgently needed to demonstrate commitment and gain credibility in the international community. One such simple step would be to immediately pardon and release the two imprisoned Reuters journalists. It should further recognize the gravity of the crisis, taking needed measures on accountability, and improve the situation in Rakhine. Only then will conditions for safe and voluntary return of refugees be in place.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Contact

Lisa Laskaridis
Head of Press and Communication, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN
Phone +1 212 583 2543
Mobile +1 917 239 0941
email to Lisa Laskaridis