By Arul Louis
United Nations, Oct 14 : Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has asked the deadlocked Security Council to push the Myanmar government to allow the Rohingya refugees sheltered in Bangladesh to return home in safety and with dignity.
Speaking to reporters after he had briefed the Security Council on Friday, Annan said that the returning refugees should not be sent to camps in Myanmar, but to their homes.
Annan had headed a Commission on Rakhine State, the home to Rohingyas, to help Yangon find a solution.
He said that he wanted a Council resolution that “urges the government to really press ahead and create conditions that would allow the refugees to return with dignity and with a sense of security”.
France and Britain are for strong action against the Myanmar government, but have not been able to come up with even a resolution because of the opposition from China and Russia, which have veto powers.
The current crisis erupted late August when Annan submitted his report to the Myanmar government and almost simultaneously a terrorist organisation, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), attacked several security posts.
The counter attacks by the military on the Rohingyas sent waves of them fleeing to Bangladesh.
Annan said that the attacks have stopped but there was still fear among the refugees making them hesitant to return home.
His Commission had recommended that Rohingyas, who are Muslims and had been denied citizenship, should be made citizens, have their civic rights protected, and given freedom of movement, and economic and educational opportunities.
“We have to tackle the root causes and the report deals with that,” Annan said.
His plan was the only one for solving the long-festering problem of Rohingya rights and there was no “Plan B,” he added.
Annan also noted that Myanmar was undergoing a transformation after more than 50 decades of military rule adding to the complexity of the situation there.
“The international community is now beginning to put pressure on the military,” he said.
France’s Permanent Representative Francois Delattre, who now holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, earlier told reporters that what was happening in Myanmar was “ethnic cleansing” that has created more than 520,000 refugees and has to be denounced.
Britain has responsibility in the Security Council for matters relating to Myanmar, and its Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft said that its members agreed that military action against the Rohingya must end immediately and conditions created for their return.
While the present crisis began with the ARSA attacks, he said that the military’s response was disproportionate.