Time not right for visit – Myanmar to U.N. Security Council

February 2, 2018 - 8:07 AM
Rohingya children at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. (photo by Cathal McNaughton, Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS — Myanmar told the United Nations Security Council not to visit during February this year because it was “not the right time,” Kuwait’s U.N. Ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi said on Thursday, adding that the country did not completely reject the proposed trip.

Nearly 690,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since Aug. 25 last year after the Myanmar military cracked down on insurgents in Rakhine state.

The security forces have been accused by Rohingya witnesses and rights activists of carrying out killings, rapes and arson in Rakhine in a campaign senior officials in the United Nations and United States have described as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar rejects that label and has denied nearly all the allegations.

Al-Otaibi said he tried to organize a visit to Myanmar during Kuwait’s presidency of the Security Council in February.

“This visit will not happen in February. Other members of the council might organize such a visit at a later stage, maybe in March or April,” Al-Otaibi said. “They did not reject it … They just think this is not the right time for the visit.”

“They are currently organizing a visit for the diplomatic corps in Myanmar to the Rakhine state. They also said that tensions are high in the Rakhine state at the moment, these were the reasons given to us by the Myanmar authorities,” he said.

In November the 15-member Security Council urged the Myanmar government to stop the excessive use of military force in Rakhine state and expressed “grave concern over reports of human rights violations and abuses.”

The statement by the council also called on the Myanmar government to give media organizations full and unhindered access throughout the country to ensure the safety and security of medial personnel.

Two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were detained on Dec. 12 and accused of violating the country’s Official Secrets Act. They had worked on Reuters coverage of a crisis in Rakhine state.