On March 22, 2017 the OIC Group of Ambassadors that were members of the OIC Contact Group on Rohingya issue had a meeting with H. E. António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations to discuss recent developments in Myanmar and the ways on how the UN Secretary General could take up a greater role and put more efforts and resources to address the issues of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The Group was selected from the Member States that are also members of the OIC Contact Group on Rohingya.
The purpose of the visit was to convey the message and concerns of the OIC Member States on the situation of Muslims in Myanmar and discuss relevant developments ways on how the United Nations could take up a greater role and put more efforts and resources to address the issues of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the OIC, and Deputy Permanent Representatives of Senegal, Malaysia, Turkey, and Egypt were part of the group.
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations H.E. Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi spoke on behalf of the OIC Group of Ambassadors in his capacity as the Coordinator of the Contact Group in Myanmar. He expressed serious concern over the situation of Rohingyas in Myanmar especially after recent developments and emphasized that the issue needed to be given more attention and importance.
The UN Secretary General explained that the issue is dear to his heart and further elaborated on how he had been involved in the issue in Rakhine State as well as in refugee camps Bangladesh for so many years. He called Muslims in Myanmar as the most discriminated community and expressed disappointment over the fact that political change and democracy did not bring positive change and improvement in the situation of Rohingyas in Myanmar.
He also referred to the Interim Report and Recommendations by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State headed by Kofi Annan and Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar submitted to 34th Human Rights Council in addition to the report published by Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN Secretary General briefed about his meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar and his request to grant Rohingya minorities nationality or at least legal status by changing their status from legal migrants to legal migrants. He further explained that his approach is two-fold. While he continues to help and support Rohingys in their cause, he also keeps the engagement with Myanmar government on going.
The Coordinator of the OIC Contact Group informed the SG about the delay in submitting the resolution which was due to fact that the OIC wanted to give the democratic government time to work on improving the situation. He expressed his disappointment on the unfortunate and disastrous turn the events took. He then put forward the following points to the UN SG:
1- Interim Report by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State headed by Kofi Annan had certain recommendations including on the need for the Rohingya refugees to return which required support.
2- A resolution on the issue was submitted to the Human Rights Council. The resolution inter alia asks for a fact finding mission which needs the UN SG’s support.
3- There has to be a replacement for the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar who has left, to continue the job and follow things up.
4- Keeping in mind the insufficient and low level activities and efforts towards addressing the issue, the UN Secretary General’s further support and serious efforts are needed.
Permanent Representative of Indonesia mentioned that his government was encouraging the government of Myanmar to accept OIC’s and its Member States’ assistance. The Permanent Representative of Bangladesh expressed concern over the IDP’s and refugees situation and underscored the importance of their sustainable return. The Permanent Representative of Egypt warned about the growing threat of radicalization and terrorism there and briefed about the plans to be undertaken by Al-Azhar to start relevant training and education in Rakhine State.
The UN Secretary General stated that he will consider and study what they can do on the report and its recommendations and will also materialize the Human Rights Council Resolution on the matter once adopted. He concurred with the need to raise the profile of the issue.