Kofi Annan Urges Protection For Myanmar Rohingya Muslims

Kofi Annan Urges Protection For Myanmar Rohingya Muslims.

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said during a visit to Myanmar 6 December, that he was alarmed by reports of human rights abuses against the country’s ethnic-Rohingya Muslims and urged the country to do more to protect civil rights as a humanitarian crisis builds in the strife-torn west of the country. Speaking to reporters in Yangon after meeting with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyiand the country’s army chief, Mr. Annan said he stressed that “wherever security operations might be necessary, civilians must be protected at all times and I urge the security services to act in full compliance with the rule of law.”

Mr. Annan was visiting the country as part of a commission appointed by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this year to investigate long-term solutions to the longstanding tensions in Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh. Tensions flared in early October after alleged Rohingya militants attacked three police outpost in early October, killing nine police. The subsequent crackdown has prompted the largest surge of refugees out of the area since Buddhist nationalists attacked Rohingya villages in 2012, killing more than 100 people and forcing some 120,000 others into tented camps. Thousands of others have attempted to flee to Thailand or Malaysia. The most recent wave of violence prompted many Rohingya to cross over into Bangladesh, where authorities already are struggling to absorb waves of new arrivals. The U.N. has described the Rohingya as one of the world’s most-persecuted minorities. They are denied citizenship in Bangladesh, and in Myanmar, despite many tracing back their history in the country for generations.

Mr. Annan arrived in the country last week to travel to Rakhine State to meet with local leaders. In his meetings with Ms. Suu Kyi, who has faced growing international criticism for the situation in Rakhine, and army commander-in-chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Mr. Annan said he had urged more access to the area for humanitarian groups and for journalists, who are current barred from entering northern Rakhine State. Ms. Suu Kyi and Gen. Min Aung Hlaing couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The tone of Mr. Annan’s remarks, however, was cautious. He said it was too early to pre-judge a government investigation into how the violence escalated since October. He also said it was too early to say there was any evidence to claims from human rights groups that Myanmar’s military was pursuing a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Credit: James Hookway for The Wall Street Journal 6 December 2016