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UN official in Myanmar ‘must be investigated’

By Sorwar Alam, Anadulo Agency

European Rohingya Council urges global body to probe alleged UN role in ‘ethnic cleansing’ against Rohingya Muslims

ANKARA: A Rohingya advocacy group has urged an independent investigation into allegations that UN’s resident coordinator in Myanmar had a role in the “ethnic cleansing” carried out against the Rohingya Muslim community.

“UN must investigate the incident independently,” chairman of the European Rohingya Council, Hla Kyaw told Anadolu Agency on Monday.

Major British news agency BBC published a story last Thursday titled “Rohingya Muslims fear the UN failed them” detailing accusations against the Canadian official, Renata Lok-Dessallien.

The BBC cited “sources within the UN and the aid community both in Myanmar and outside” as saying that Lok-Dessallien tried to stop human rights activists travelling to Rohingya areas, attempted to shut down public advocacy on the subject, and isolated staff who tried to warn that ethnic cleansing might be on the way.

The UN Security Council held an open meeting on the Rohingyas’ plight the same day — the first such meeting in eight years. During the meeting, U.S. envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley said the violence against the Rohingyas appeared to be an ethnic cleansing.

“We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be: a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority,” Haley told the Security Council.

Kyaw said the European Rohingya Council “fully agrees with what have surfaced to the media about UN failure to stop Myanmar’s genocide of Rohingya”.

“The UN is either complicit or ignored knowingly Myanmar’s crimes against humanity or slow-burning genocide against Rohingya,” in the western Rakhine State, he said.

Kyaw claimed that the “UN did not do anything effective to stop the death of even one single life of Rohingya,” as the Myanmar government’s “nearly 40 years systematic destruction of Rohingya has been happening under UN watch”.

The UN did only one thing; “systematic documentation of the genocide, and urging and condemning Myanmar’s genocide of Rohingya,” according to Kyaw.

He said the incident in Myanmar “could be pursuing self-interest [of the representative of the UN] or the interest of big power at the expenses of more than a million lives of Rohingya”.

“This is not about being afraid of Myanmar officials, rather they [she] didn’t want to displease Myanmar officials by being vocal against Myanmar’s extermination of Rohingya, I assume.”

Kyaw added Myanmar security forces were “continuously burning houses and manufacturing lies”.

“They are pulling Hindu community against Rohingya by excavating Hindu mass graves, probably killed by Myanmar military to blame Rohingya insurgents.

UN is busy as usual with releasing statements and condemning Myanmar, doing nothing effective to stop Myanmar from committing crimes against humanity and genocide against Rohingya.”

Blatant act of complicity

A Bangladesh-based refugee research unit also condemned the incident, calling it “a blatant act of complicity with the Burmese authority”.

“The United Nations is supposed to be a neutral agency,” said Chowdhury Rafiqul Abrar, coordinator of the Refugee and Migrating Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) of the University of Dhaka.

“The reported issue that Lok-Dessallien did not allow her colleagues to highlight the issue or report the issue what was happening in Rakhine region is a violation of the tasks they are supposed to do,” he told Anadolu Agency.

The RMMRU “deeply condemns” this act, he said, adding “this activity, in some way, prepared the ground for the Burmese army to do what they are doing right now”.

If the UN had “highlighted” this problem at that time, the international community would have been “more alerted” to this issue, according to Abrar.

UN denies allegations

The United Nations has denied allegations and expressed “full confidence” in the resident coordinator and her staff.

“The United Nations strongly disagrees with allegations against the UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar, Renata Lok-Dessallien.

The Secretary-General has full confidence in the Resident Coordinator and her Team,” said a statement issued on Friday by Stephane Dujarric, spokesman to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Lok-Dessallien is a “tireless advocate for human rights, conflict prevention, and humanitarian and development assistance” in Rakhine State where the Rohingyas live, according to the statement.

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, according to the UN.

The refugees are fleeing a fresh security operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages.

According to Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, around 3,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown.

*Mutasim Billah contributed to this story from Dhaka, Bangladesh.