Myanmar Deflects Fault over Migrants ; U.N. Says Root Cause of Crisis Is Nation's Treatment of Rohingya

By Fuller, Thomas | International New York Times, May 30, 2015 | Go to article overview

Myanmar Deflects Fault over Migrants ; U.N. Says Root Cause of Crisis Is Nation's Treatment of Rohingya


Fuller, Thomas, International New York Times


Myanmar said that it should not be singled out for the refugee crisis and that its policies toward the Rohingya were "domestic jurisdiction."

The Myanmar government forcefully rejected on Friday assertions by the United Nations that the root cause of Southeast Asia's migration crisis is Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya, a stateless and persecuted Muslim minority.

At a meeting here called to address the continuing exodus of migrants and refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh, a Myanmar diplomat told delegates from about 20 countries that his government should not be singled out for the refugee crisis, that its policies toward the Rohingya were "domestic jurisdiction" and that outsiders were misinformed about what was motivating the Rohingya to leave.

So far this year, an estimated 25,000 people have left Bangladesh and Myanmar on boats -- double the number last year -- and several hundred people are believed to have died at sea.

U Htin Lynn, Myanmar's representative at the meeting, said the United Nations was wrong in its assessment of the problem. "They need to be more informed," he said. "This issue of illegal immigration of boat people, you cannot single out my country."

Mr. Htin Lynn was responding to comments by Volker Turk, a representative from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Mr. Turk said Myanmar should remove restrictions on the movement of the Rohingya within Myanmar and offer "basic freedoms" to stabilize their lives.

More than 100,000 Rohingya in Myanmar live in camps, having been chased from their homes by mobs of radical Buddhists over the past three years. Mr. Turk said the government should facilitate the return of the Rohingya to their homes.

"Granting of citizenship is the ultimate goal," he said. "Recognizing that Myanmar is their own country is urgently required."

The Rohingya in Myanmar number more than one million and are widely reviled in the country, where anti-Muslim feelings run strong among the majority Buddhist population. The government rejects the term Rohingya; Myanmar officials had threatened to boycott the meeting on Friday if the term Rohingya was used. …

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