Nikki Haley Calls Myanmar's Denial of Ethnic Cleansing 'Preposterous'

Nikki Haley Calls Myanmar's Denial of Ethnic Cleansing 'Preposterous'

Myanmar has failed to put in place conditions for the safe return of 688,000 Rohingya refugees who fled an army crackdown six months ago, the United Nations refugee chief said on Monday.

"We are now in a race against time as a major new emergency looms", United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the Security Council on Tuesday via videolink from Geneva, Switzerland.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting, French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre reaffirmed the need to fully mobilize the council and suggested that the meeting itself was meant to "increase the pressure" to ensure implementation of the council's November 6 presidential statement. Although Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed on a plan for the return of refugees, the process still lacks the necessary security guarantees.

"The leader of Burma has been internationally celebrated in the past for her commitment to peace and to her fellow man", Haley said of Myanmar's de facto civilian leader, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar's government "regularly denies the existence of massacres and mass graves and claims to be fighting "terrorists", Haley said.

"Granting freedom of movement, allowing internally displaced people to return home, and fast-tracking confirmation of their citizenship would send a strong signal to refugees in Bangladesh that Myanmar is genuinely committed to taking responsibility for their protection and well-being, and to pursuing lasting solutions". China, a supporter of Myanmar's former ruling junta, called for patience and noted that "stability and order" had been restored to Rakhine state.

Myanmar has handed over to Dhaka a list of 508 Hindus and 750 Muslims, verified as its residents in the first batch of refugees to be repatriated from Bangladesh under the recent deal between the two governments, a top Myanmarese diplomat has informed the UN Security Council.

Almost 690,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine state and crossed into southern Bangladesh since last August when attacks on security posts by insurgents triggered a military crackdown that the United Nations has said may amount to genocide.

Haley said the refugees should not return to Myanmar until they feel confident that "they will not fall victim to the same horrors that drove them from their homes in the first place". "Many are too scared to return to their country".

The U.N. refugee chief also raised alarm over the monsoon rainy season starting next month, warning that 100,000 refugees were living in flood-prone areas and must be urgently relocated.

"The [Bangladeshi] Government is steering a massive emergency preparedness effort, but global support must be stepped up to avert a catastrophe", he said, stressing that "as we have repeatedly said, resolving this crisis means finding solutions inside Myanmar."He said that conditions are not yet conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar".

Also addressing the Council was UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca, who said that while there has been certain progress on the three priorities laid out by the Secretary-General, not all have been implemented thus far.

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