Annan commission says Myanmar must close Rohingya camps

Former UN chief Kofi Annan-led commission reports over 120,000 Rohingya have languished for years in the squalid displacement camps.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Former UN chief Kofi Annan is seen in a video conference in Yangon city.

Myanmar should close bleak camps where tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya Muslims have been trapped for nearly five years, a commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan said on Thursday.

More than 120,000 Rohingya have languished in camps since they were driven from their homes by sectarian unrest between Buddhists and Muslims that engulfed western Rakhine State in 2012.

"It’s really about time they close the camps and allow the people in the camps, particularly those who have gone through the (citizenship) verification process, access to freedom of movement and all rights of citizenship," Annan said.

Most are not allowed to leave the squalid displacement camps where they live in piecemeal shelters with little access to food, and denied access to basic education and healthcare.


Rohingya ethnic group are considered by the UN as the world's most persecuted minority. [Reuters]

Simmering tension

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi last year appointed Annan to head a commission tasked with healing long-simmering divisions between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine.

The commission's report called for the government to ensure "security and livelihood opportunities at the site of return/relocation" for those leaving the camps, including by building new houses.

Rohingya should also be given a transparent path to becoming citizens and restrictions on the movements of those who already have it should be lifted, it added. 

Myanmar has long faced international condemnation for its treatment of the Rohingya, who many in the Buddhist majority reject as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The issue has reached boiling point in recent months after the army launched a bloody crackdown in the north of Rakhine after deadly attacks on several police border posts in October. 

International fact-finding mission sought

UN investigators who interviewed escapees in Bangladesh have accused Myanmar's security forces of responding with a campaign of murder, gang rape and arson that may amount to genocide.

Annan's report has identified three initial camps to close — one housing over 200 Rohingya along with two others that are home to Buddhist Rakhines and Kaman Muslims who were also displaced in the 2012 violence.

Suu Kyi's office welcomed the report and said that it would implement the "large majority of recommendations" without giving more details.

On Thursday the European Union called on for the UN to send an international fact-finding mission urgently to Myanmar to investigate allegations of torture, rapes and executions by the military against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

The EU draft resolution, submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, strengthens language in an earlier draft circulating that stopped short of demanding an international probe into alleged atrocities.

The 47-member forum, currently holding a four-week session, is to vote on resolutions from March 23-24.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies