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Genocide or not, unacceptable no doubt: British HC on Rohingyas

10 February 2017,Friday, 22:23



The British, Canadian and Australian high commissioners in Dhaka have been left shaken by harrowing tales of violence and suffering they heard from Rohingya refugees in a registered camp in Kutupalong of Cox’s Bazaar.

The long-suffering Rohingya, once anointed “the most persecuted people in the world” by Amnesty International, urged the diplomats and their friends in the international community to deliver a “lasting political solution” to their plight, that would restore their full human rights and dignity, and even offer hope for a brighter future.

“But the Rohingya want to go home and they would not be able to do that until they could do so in safety and security and with their identity fully recognized,” said British High Commissioner in Dhaka Alison Blake in a statement on Friday.

The High Commissioner recognised and paid tribute to the efforts of the Bangladesh government, as well as the many local and international relief agencies, including (IOM, WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF) to deliver immediate humanitarian support.

While expressing her pride in the British government’s aid agency UK Aid supporting their work, she did still note that the scale of the need is ‘enormous’, and the UK will be looking at what more can be done. In particular she mentioned the importance of ensuring that all allegations of human rights abuses are investigated, so that those responsible can be held to account.

Blake said she was “horrified and moved” by the stories she heard from the men and women she met on what they had seen or experienced.

They (Rohingyas) described terrible violence and crimes, like those recorded in the recent report from the UN Refugee office (UNHCR), according to the statement, stressing the people the High Commissioner met had “suffered terribly and bore physical and psychological scars.”

However the statement did walk back on reports that what she learned about the Burmese troops’ crackdown in Rakhine state was “tantamount to genocide”.

“Judgements about whether this amounted to genocide or ethnic cleansing are not ones that the High Commissioner could or did make,” the statement from the British High Commission in Dhaka said, after some newspapers ”misquoted” Ms Blake’s comments made to the press during her visit to the Kutupalong Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar.

While refraining from use of the word genocide, due to its potential legal implications in international law, the statement did go on to add Ms Blake was personally in no doubt that what she heard described to her about the Myanmar army’s actions “would be beyond the bounds of acceptable security operations.”

The British High Commissioner said she heard of the Rohingyas’ gratitude towards Bangladesh “over and over again”.

Australian High Commissioner Julia Niblett and Canadian High Commissioner Benoit-Pierre Laramée also visited the camp with the British High Commissioner on Thursday.

Meanwhile, UN human rights expert on Myanmar Yanghee Lee is likely to visit Dhaka on February 19, Foreign Ministry sources said.

She might stay in the country for six days, the sources added, during which she will visit the camps that have sprung up in Cox’s Bazaar to view the situation on the ground.

 

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