‘Help the Rohingyas, that’s all,’ FS tells UN envoy

Raheed Ejaz . Dhaka | Update:

UN secretary general’s special envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener. Photo: Prothom AloUN secretary general’s special envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener faced a barrage of allegations during her recent visit to Bangladesh.

At a diplomatic briefing in Yangon last week she actually blamed Bangladesh for the failure to start Rohingya repatriation.

She then had to answer to questions in this regard when she came to meet foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque on Tuesday afternoon.

Former diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener of Switzerland began working almost two years ago as the UN secretary general’s special envoy for Myanmar. She has visited Bangladesh five times so far, but she visited the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar only once.

According to the UN website in Yangon, Christine Schraner Burgener arrived in Myanmar on 9 July in a 10-day visit. She met with ministers, government officials, representatives of civil society, think tanks and various UN agencies there during the visit.

Christine Schraner Burgener arrived in Bangladesh on Tuesday and met with the foreign secretary in the afternoon at his office.

When questioned after the meeting, the US secretary general’s special envoy was unwilling to respond.

The foreign secretary told Prothom Alo, he had spoken to the US secretary general’s special envoy about the situation in Myanmar.

Officials present at the meeting said that the special envoy was uneasy. She admitted that their movements were absolutely restricted in Rakhine.

They could only visit the places where the Myanmar government took them. Shahidul Haque then asked her then if she could then surely be quoted as affirming that the situation in Rakhine was not conducive to the return o the Rohingyas. She agreed that the situation was not conducive for the Rohingyas to return.

The foreign secretary then asked her why she hadn’t said so at the last briefing of diplomats in Yangon. In fact, he said, she had placed the blame on Bangladesh, concerning the failure for the Rohingyas to be repatriated.

She even had complained about the visit of Myanmar’s independent inquiry commission to Bangladesh.

When she tried to refute these allegations, the foreign secretary produced the report sent by the Bangladesh embassy in Myanmar.

The UN special envoy was uncomfortable with this evidence.

Foreign secretary Shahidul Haque also wanted to know why she didn’t visit the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar when she visited Bangladesh.

He said, “Unless you speak to the Rohingyas, you will not know whether they want to return or not. You will not know what they really want.” Burgener had no answer to this.

At one stage Christine Burgener said, "Believe me, I want to help Bangladesh." In response, the foreign minister said, “Did we ask for your help? Help the Rohingyas, that’s enough.”

During the meeting with the foreign secretary, Christine Burgener said she had decided to send a colleague [who was present at the meeting] to visit the camps.

An official who had been present at the discussions said, later Md Shahidul Haque cautioned the UN envoy about the next diplomatic briefing.

“We will be watching you at the next diplomatic briefing. We will prepare a report in this regard and this will be made public. And we will send the first report to the UN secretary general,” he said.

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