Key member resigns from Myanmar advisory panel on Rohingya crisis

Rohingya Muslim woman, Rukaya Begum, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, holds her son Mahbubur Rehman, left and her daughter Rehana Bibi, after the government moved them to newly allocated refugee camp areas, near Kutupalong, Bangladesh. (File Photo: Dar Yasin/AP)
Updated 21 July 2018
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Key member resigns from Myanmar advisory panel on Rohingya crisis

  • Retired Thai lawmaker and ambassador Kobsak Chutikul was secretary for the panel hand-picked by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to advise her government
  • Kobsak Chutikul said his position became untenable ahead of a second full meeting of the panel with officials in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw this week

YANGON: A key member of an international advisory panel on Myanmar’s crisis-hit Rakhine state has resigned, telling AFP on Saturday that the Aung San Suu Kyi-appointed board risks becoming “part of the problem” in a conflict that forced 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee.
Retired Thai lawmaker and ambassador Kobsak Chutikul was secretary for the panel hand-picked by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to advise her government on how to handle the aftermath of a military campaign that drove the minority out of the country.
The brutal crackdown started in August last year and left hundreds of Rohingya villages razed to the ground.
Refugees to Bangladesh have recounted horrifying testimony of widespread murder, rape and torture in violence the UN and US have branded as ethnic cleansing.
Kobsak Chutikul said his position became untenable ahead of a second full meeting of the panel with officials in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw this week.
“I verbally gave my resignation in a staff meeting last Tuesday (10 July),” he told AFP by phone from Bangkok.
The board, he said, risks becoming a “part of the problem.”
“It lulls authorities into thinking they have done enough to respond to the concerns of the international community, that they’ve ticked that box,” he added.
“It becomes dangerous in terms of an illusion that something is being done... that they’re going to do something while Rome burns.”
The credibility of the advisory board was undermined early on by the resignation of veteran US diplomat Governor Bill Richardson a one-time close confidant of Suu Kyi.
He left the panel in January in a vicious war of words with the Nobel laureate.
The government insisted it had terminated his involvement but Richardson said he stepped down due to fears the committee would only “whitewash” the causes of the Rohingya crisis.
A statement by his office Saturday said that Kobsak’s resignation “further reinforces the concerns” he held.
Kobsak, however, told AFP that he thought Governor Richardson’s departure had been premature.
But he said the board’s poor organization and funding severely curtailed its work.
“We were winging it on the fly, not really in full grasp of the full facts and figures. Everyone was all over the place — we don’t have a permanent office anywhere,” he told AFP.
Suu Kyi’s reputation lies in tatters internationally for her failure to speak up on behalf of the Rohingya Muslims, a stateless group persecuted over decades in Myanmar.
There was no immediate reaction from her office or the panel.
The advisory board has so far dismayed rights groups for not mentioning the word ‘Rohingya’ — a name Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejects, preferring the pejorative term ‘Bengali’ that implies the community are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Kobsak Chutikul said the international community should rally round new UN special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener, who he said “offers the best hope in the circumstances.”


UN report: Sex abuse in UN peacekeeping drops, up elsewhere

A UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) liaison fixes her colleagues hat as they attend the UNIFLIS's 40th anniversary celebration at its base in Lebanon's southern border town of Naqura on the border with Israel, south of Beirut, on March 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 min 33 sec ago
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UN report: Sex abuse in UN peacekeeping drops, up elsewhere

  • Guterres said the increase in those allegations was possibly due to "awareness-raising" and improved reporting by the 30 U.N. agencies, funds and programs

UNITED NATIONS: Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in U.N. peacekeeping missions decreased in 2018 — but allegations against other U.N. personnel and against staff of organizations implementing U.N. programs increased, according to a U.N. report released Monday.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the U.N. General Assembly circulated Monday that the alleged victims were mainly women and children.
The United Nations has long been in the spotlight over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic and Congo. But the latest figures demonstrate again that sexual misconduct spans the entire U.N. system and beyond to outside organizations helping to implement its programs on the ground.
Guterres stressed the U.N.'s "zero-tolerance" policy and said he has embarked on "a cultural transformation" to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation throughout the U.N. system, which comprises more than 90,000 staff and over 100,000 uniformed personnel.
According to the report, the number of cases in U.N. peacekeeping and political missions dropped to 54 in 2018 from 62 in 2017, and from 104 reported cases in 2016. It said 74 percent of the allegations in 2018 came from the U.N. peacekeeping forces in Central African Republic and Congo, and the remaining 24 percent from the peacekeeping missions in Mali, Haiti, Liberia and South Sudan.
By comparison, there were 94 reported cases of sexual exploitation elsewhere in the United Nations system, and 109 allegations involving U.N. partner organizations, the report said.
Guterres said the increase in those allegations was possibly due to "awareness-raising" and improved reporting by the 30 U.N. agencies, funds and programs.
The U.N. chief stressed that continuing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse "harms those we serve, undermines the United Nations values and principles and tarnishes the reputation of the women and men who work with integrity and dedication to realize the objectives of the organization."