Chair of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman (left) said on Tuesday (21/11) that the mission is still 'hopeful' that it will be granted access to the country and acquire official information. (Photo courtesy of the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner)

Members of UN Fact-Finding Mission Still Hope to Gain Entry Into Myanmar


NOVEMBER 22, 2017

Jakarta. Marzuki Darusman, chair of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said on Tuesday (21/11) that members of the mission are still "hopeful" that they will be granted access to the country and acquire official information.

"Most importantly, we would like to acquire information from Myanmar itself. They are unwilling up to this point, but we are hopeful that we will have the opportunity to speak to the government in the near future so we can learn their version on what has happened," Marzuki said.

In March, the UN Human Rights Council created the international mission to gather information on possible human rights violations in Rakhine State.

The mission has to submit an interim report to the Council in March 2018, followed by a final report in September 2018.

Marzuki told reporters during an event in Jakarta that the mission is still in its early stages, and emphasized that the international community must continue its humanitarian assistance to the refugee camps in Bangladesh as part of a collective effort to create stability for the Rohingya.

In late August, attacks by insurgents on the military led to a bloody crackdown that drove more than 600,000 Rohingya men, women and children from their homes in Rakhine State to neighboring Bangladesh.

Marzuki said that the mass exodus has "ironically provided us access to meet the Rohingya people," which would have otherwise been hindered because the mission was denied entry into Myanmar.

However, he noted that testimonies of the Rohingya are influenced by the recent atrocities they endured.

"Therefore, stability is important for these testimonies to be closest to the facts, because then they will be able to process and think through what has happened, providing us a background of the events that took place, and not solely centered on the recent outbreak of violence and the suffering that followed," Marzuki said.

While Indonesia is not involved in the independent investigation, Marzuki said the mission has been communicating with the government to exchange information.

So far, the mission has gathered information from various sources, including reports compiled by the UN, civil society organizations and foreign embassies in Myanmar.

Marzuki, along with human rights experts Radhika Coomaraswamy from Sri Lanka and Christopher Sidoti from Australia, concluded their visit to Bangladesh in late October, where they "heard many accounts [that] point to a consistent, methodical pattern of actions resulting in gross human rights violations affecting hundreds of thousands of people."

The experts interviewed Rohingya victims in the Kutapalong, Nayapara and Balukhali camps. They also held consultations with government officials, diplomats and nongovernmental organizations.

The conclusion to their findings will be based "on reasonable grounds to believe," and will be handed over to the Human Rights Council, which will ensure accountability for perpetrators and justice for the victims in cases of violations.

Rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday concluded, after a two-year investigation in Rakhine State, that Myanmar authorities’ treatment of the Rohingya amounts to apartheid.

"The purpose of the Fact-Finding Mission is to provide the last word on what has happened [in Myanmar]," Marzuki said.