Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 14, 2020
Thank you very much, and thank you, Special Envoy Burgener, for your briefing this afternoon.
To begin, I do want to note that the United States regrets the fact that OCHA is not briefing us today. Their impartial insights are important for all Security Council members to hear, and that we hope in the future OCHA will be allowed to participate in future briefings alongside the Special Envoy.
The United States remains concerned about the situation in Burma, and the many factors there with the potential to affect the peace and stability not only of Burma, but of the wider region. The significant number of internally displaced persons, as well as people living in refugee camps in neighboring countries, continue to face great risk due to COVID-19. Moreover, they are in need of critical humanitarian assistance. We support the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire to enable health officials to address COVID-19, and for unhindered and safe access for human rights and humanitarian workers. This call should be especially resonant in Burma, where conflict and restrictions on humanitarian access continue to cause suffering among vulnerable populations.
The military has declared a nationwide ceasefire, but one that is heavily caveated. Most notably, the ceasefire does not include the military’s attacks on the Arakan Army, and as such, it rings hollow. The current conflict is blocking humanitarian assistance to all communities in need across the Rakhine and Chin States.
The two recent attacks, as colleagues have mentioned, in April on marked UN vehicles in Rakhine State, one of which killed a UN employee, as well as another attack on WFP-contracted trucks transporting food aid in Chin State, are clearly unacceptable. A full ceasefire is needed both to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, and to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for previous attacks. Furthermore, all parties must respect the security and safety of aid workers, and they must ensure that the humanitarian space remains impartial and neutral.
We were encouraged by Burma’s May 11 renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding with UNHCR and UNDP in Rakhine State, but access constraints continue to hamper progress on quick impact projects. We continue to encourage and urge Burma to provide unhindered access for the UN agencies to fully implement the quick impact projects in areas of potential returns. We also continue to call on Burma to improve conditions for Rohingya in Rakhine State, who face an environment of severe repression and restrictions on freedom of movement and on access to education, healthcare, and their livelihoods, based on their ethnicity, religion, and citizenship status. It should go without saying that equal access to healthcare is especially important during this pandemic.
The United States is concerned for the welfare of hundreds of Rohingya refugees who are currently at sea and unable to find a country that will allow them safe disembarkation. In a bilateral capacity, we are engaging regional states that attended the 2016 Bali Process Sixth Ministerial Conference to remind them of their commitments in the Bali Declaration. The United States is requesting these states improve burden sharing and adherence to standing international legal obligations, and that they identify and provide safety to the most vulnerable who arrive at their shores.
We are also encouraging the Bali Process co-chairs to invoke the Consultation Mechanism to convene a regional meeting on Rohingya migration by sea. And we have encouraged the Government of Burma to respect and comply with the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice, as well as to use these developments to pursue justice in Rakhine State and greater respect for human rights. These actions will equip the whole country to move forward and make progress.
Preventing the recurrence of atrocities, addressing the needs of victims, and ensuring those responsible for atrocities are held accountable: these are all essential components to resolving the Rakhine State crisis – and they are essential to furthering Burma’s transition to a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous state.