Transcript of the press conference at the end of the UN Security Council’s visit to Myanmar
30 APRIL – 1 MAY 2018
UNSC President, Permanent Representative of Poland, Ms. Joanna Wronecka:
Good evening everybody, we are very pleased to be in Myanmar and I am particularly pleased because today Poland assumes the Presidency of the Security Council, for the month of May. I would like to pay tribute to my colleagues to my colleagues who prepared this visit, especially the previous Presidency, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Peru and, Kuwait, who initiated our preparation and UK for a very substantial contribution to this visit. My colleagues will share their impressions, but I would like to assure you that we are extremely happy and grateful to the authorities of Myanmar, for all arrangements. We had a chance to visit your beautiful country. To speak to different representatives of your society. And I think now that we had very good information about the development of the country, about the humanitarian assistance. Now I will encourage my colleagues to speak on their behalf. Thank you.
Former UNSC President H.E. Mr. Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Permanent Representative of Peru:
Good afternoon, as our Presidency mentioned, yesterday and today, we had two important days, in this visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar. The purpose of our visit, as you know, has been to assess and evaluate the situation on the ground. The Security Council is very much concerned, about the refugee crisis so yesterday we had important meetings with the State Counsellor and also with the Chief of the Armed Forces, civil society, and today we had an important visit to Rakhine State. We visited the area of the refugees. Also we had very good encounters with the local population. We visited the constructions that the Government is takin on at the border for the return of the refugees. Also we visited areas where the local communities expressed their views regarding how the returnees can come back to their villages of origin. This is an issue that we have been discussing at the Council as you know our views where we have very clearly stated in appreciation of the statement of the Security Council. Yesterday we had a very open discussion where we presented our views regarding how best we can solve these difficult issues. We also received the views of Government. After that we will continue at the Security Council, evaluating how best we can proceed. Basically the message that we conveyed was that it was very important to improve the security conditions of the return of the refugees. Also the collaboration with international organizations, particularly United Nations, we also mentioned the importance of the investigations regarding what happened here before the refugees went to Bangladesh. These were basically our discussion and now I will pass to my colleague the Ambassador.
H.E. Mr. Mansour Alotaibi, Permanent Representative of Kuwait
We are very grateful to Myanmar’s Government for all the support and logistical assistance. Without their help, without their assistance, we wouldn’t see what we saw in western Rakhine and the meetings which have been arranged, as my colleague says, the different sectors of the Government, civil society and many others. So we are really thankful to the Myanmar Government for that. What we really wanted as representatives of the Security Council was to see the agreement signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh to be implemented. We saw that the Myanmar Government took many steps to implement the agreement. But I think that there Is much that Is… what we really want is for the refugees to go back to their homes. We are assured by the officials that we met that they are doing that they want that to come back but there is conditions, restrictions. Some UN Agencies, like UNHCr and UNDP, we know that they are in process to sign a memorandum of understanding between them and Myanmar Government. We want to see that happening soon. What we really want is just to speed up the process of the return of the refugees. A safe and voluntary and dignified return for them. Thank you.
H.E, Ms. Karen Pierce, Permanent Representative of UK:
Thank you very much for coming. Just to add to my colleagues, I’ll talk a little bit about next steps. I think we want to assist both Governments as the Security Council. We want to assist the Government of Bangladesh by drawing attention of international donors to the help that Bangladesh needs in mitigating the effects of the floods. The area that the Rohingya are in in Bangladesh, is prone to flooding and Bangladesh needs help so that it can manage the monsoon. There’s a longer term question and not having its economic stability affected by hosting as many, one million or so refugees. We want to assess the Government of Myanmar, both in the implementation of the Annan Plan and we talked a little bit about that with the representatives we met. We also, as my colleagues have said, want to support the signing of the MoU and the implementation of the agreement with Bangladesh. We believe the MoU can be signed quickly and UN agencies can be given unconditional access. That would be the best thing to do to deal with the scale of the problem. The one thing that I would like to stress the absolute scale of having to get one million refugees, back home in security and safety so that they could start their livelihoods over time, even if it takes a long time, we need to start on that. I think the Council can play a helpful role by continuing to be united on this issue. I think everybody on this Council has been moved by what they’ve seen on the trip and we want to preserve that unity so we can actually make a difference and we can accelerate progress on dealing with both the Annan Plan and also getting refugees back home. Thank you.
Q&A: 7 Day News, BBC World, Myanmar Radio and Television, AFP in succession:
7 Day (translation): What are your main findings during this trip? Is there anything you would like to share with us?
BBC World: (to the British Permanent Representative) You yourself seem quite moved by what you’ve seen with the refugees in Cox’s Bazar. You were then able to meet the head of the military whose troops stand accused of crimes against humanity and Aung San Suu Kyi, who stands accused of turning a blind eye to this. Does Britain now believe that you should have a conversation within the Security Council about a resolution being passed, whereby you recommend that the International Criminal Court investigates possible crimes against humanity.
MRTV: (Translation) The Myanmar Government has said that it is ready to receive the people who have crossed into Bangladesh but there are groups that have gone over to Bangladesh and talked with these refugees and they learned that these refugees were not aware of the procedures on returning Your comments on that please.
AFP: Have you been looking at whether the atrocities committed in Rakhine constituted genocide, and if so, have you come into any conclusion during this trip?
President – Frankly speaking, being in your country is a privilege for us. We discovered an ancient civilization where many cultures coexisted already. So there is a huge potential for an extremely positive dialogue in the future. Of course we encourage the authorities to continue in that direction. But the fact that we discussed all issues with civil society means that you have a vibrant civil society here, people who care about the future of your country and of the refugees. We were somehow also so impressed by the frankness because all members also asked difficult questions, not only easy. But definitely we have to work together to encourage, to somehow assist you in this very ambitious way for this transformation because it is a process of transformation. One of your colleagues mentioned genocide and my colleagues will try to comment. But we as diplomats, focus very much on the rules of international law. And here it is important to follow the procedures we have within the system of the United Nations. A Special Representative who is very well equipped and worked on it saw that we as a Security Council, we only give some incentives. But there are people who are more qualified to do so.
UK – I’ll take the question from the BBC. I think it is impossible not to be moved by what one heard in Cox’s Bazar and particularly the scale of it. (Inaudible) But I think everybody knows some of the stories that those poor people have been through. Yes, there must be a proper investigation. One can tell stories and those stories are very moving. But in order to have accountability, you need a proper investigation with evidentiary standards. There are two ways of doing that. One is an ICC, an International Criminal Court Referral is (inaudible). And the second is for the Burmese Government to do that themselves. And we were able to raise this both with the Senior General and with Daw Suu herself. Now she was helpful. She said, “If there was evidence, then it should be given to the Burmese authorities and they would undertake a proper investigation. We know that there had been a couple of prosecutions already. I think what would constitute a more effective response would be something that was scaled up from that. The Security Council will now go away and reflect on how best we can respond to the State Counsellor with her offer and what the best next steps might be. We don’t yet have an investigation mechanism to provide her with evidence. That would be the first step. As I say, there’s more than one route to that end. Thank you. ENDS