After Two Years Why Does the UNSC Continue to Fail the Rohingya?

August 28th, 2019  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
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“We want to make it very clear to UNHCR, ASEAN, the Government of Myanmar, and the Government of Bangladesh that there will be no repatriation without talking to us first.”

Rohingya refugees

It has been two years since the beginning of the “clearance operations” by the Myanmar[1] military that forced over 700,000 Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh, and August 25th has been marked by the Rohingya in the camps as ‘Genocide Day.’ Offering an insight into the depravity and cruelty of the violence inflicted upon civilians, the UN-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (IIFFMM) published its second report of the month, this time documenting the widespread and systematic use of rape and sexual violence by the Myanmar military against ethnic women, girls, men, boys, and transgender people as a “tactic of war”. It is thus of no surprise that a planned return of over 3,450 Rohingya from Bangladesh to Myanmar was a total disaster, with nobody turning up to participate in the organized return.

It has been two years since the start of this wave of violence and when the sprawling network of refugee camps in Bangladesh that is the current home of nearly one million Rohingya refugees drastically expanded. To mark the occasion, 200,000 Rohingya refugees living in the camps staged peaceful rallies and prayers, calling for their rights, and holding placards saying “Never again.” Yet, while humanitarian aid has been provided to the camps, the conditions remain dire. As a statement by mostly international NGOs working in the camps articulated, “With shrinking funds and continued restrictions on refugees’ access to education and livelihoods, the crisis is likely to worsen.” Despite these dire conditions, most of the Rohingya do not dare to go back home. The violence they faced, and the very real possibility that they could face that again, means that the Rohingya would rather stay in such conditions than risk going back to Myanmar unless their fundamental rights, including freedom of movement, citizenship and security are guaranteed.

The nature of the violence they suffered was laid bare by the IIFFMM, which on 22 August 2019, published a new report based on interviews with hundreds of survivors and witnesses of sexual violence in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States. The report concluded that the Myanmar military “demonstrated its genocidal intent against the Rohingya population ‘through the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injuries to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh, and so severely injuring victims that they may be unable to have sexual intercourse with their husbands or to conceive and leaving them concerned that they would no longer be able to have children.’” This was a follow-up to its report in early August 2019 that detailed the Myanmar military’s web of economic interests that serves to sustain its economic power and fuel the atrocities that it commits against ethnic minorities.

Given this violence, it is of no surprise that an organized return of 3,450 Rohingya refugees, planned between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, did not come to fruition. Not one Rohingya turned up to be escorted back to Myanmar, with the community citing the total lack of consultation and the fact that many people on the list, apparently verified between the two governments, did not know they were on the list. A statement released by Rohingya living in three of the camps rightfully demanded, “We want to make it very clear to UNHCR, ASEAN, the Government of Myanmar, and the Government of Bangladesh that there will be no repatriation without talking to us first.”

Until there are immediate and concrete steps towards addressing the root causes of the displacement of the Rohingya, including justice and accountability for the horrific acts of violence committed against them, planned returns are useless. They would return to the threat of violence that they experienced before, or will live in apartheid conditions that the current, over 120,000 internally displaced persons are living in. Full and meaningful consultation with, and participation of, the affected communities themselves with guarantees of the restoration of their citizenship, freedom of movement and return to their original homes are essential for any planned return.

It has been two years, and the international response to finding accountability, an essential step in addressing the impunity of the Myanmar military, has been desperately poor. More must be done, especially by the UN Security Council, which has a duty to refer Myanmar to the ICC for a full investigation and prosecution of the heinous crimes its armed forces have committed. If the use of genocidal rape against one of the most vulnerable populations in the world is not sufficient for the Security Council to refer Myanmar to the ICC, it is too difficult to comprehend what is.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

Two Years On: Rohingya Deserve Justice, A Place at the Table

By 61 Non Governmental Organizations

Threats of Repatriation Again Loom Over Rohingya Refugees

By Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network

38 Companies Added To Burma ‘Dirty List’ – Google, Apple, EDF, Peel Group, Huawei

By Burma Campaign UK

Rohingya Genocide 2 Years On – Holidays Bans Not an Adequate Response

By Burma Campaign UK

The International Community Must Speak Out Against Planned Rohingya Refoulement

By Burma Human Rights Network

No Repatriation Without Full Citizenship, Rights and Justice

By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Genocide and Repatriation

By Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative

Rohingya Repatriation Scheduled on 22 August 2019

By European Rohingya Council

Myanmar/Bangladesh: Prevent Forced Returns, Protect Rohingya Refugees

By Fortify Rights

Halt Rohingya Returns: Ensure Refugees’ Security, Basic Rights, Equal Access to Citizenship

By Human Rights Watch

Crimes Against Rohingya Go Unpunished: Address Causes of Crisis, Cooperate With UN

By Human Rights Watch

61 NGOs Warn of Worsening Crisis in Myanmar, Call for Refugees’ Engagement on Safe, Voluntary Returns

By International Rescue Committee

UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar Calls for Justice for Victims of Sexual and Gender-based Violence

By Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

ေနာ္အုန္းလွႏွင့္လုပ္ေဖၚကိုင္ဖက္မ်ားအား တရားစြဲဆိုခံရျခင္းႏွင့္ ပတ္သက္၍ IKO ၏သေဘာထားထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

By International Karen Organization

Statement from the KNU Concerned Group Welcomes and Supports – UN Fact-Finding Mission Report

By KNU Concerned Group

Karen Activists Facing Charges for Holding an Event to Commemorate the 69th Karen Martyr’s Day

By Karen Human Rights Group

ရွမ္းျပည္နယ္(ေျမာက္ပိုင္း) အရပ္ဖက္အဖြဲ႕အစည္းမ်ားႏွင့္ တက္ၾကြလႈပ္ရွားသူမ်ား၏ သေဘာထားထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

By Northern Shan State Civil Society Organizations and Activists

Even the Specter of Organized Return Terrifies Rohingya Refugees

By Refugees International

Signature Campaign by Rohingya Refugees in Camps 24, 26, and 27

By Rohingya Refugees

ရွမ္းျပည္နယ္ေျမာက္ပုိင္းတြင္ တေက်ာ့ျပန္ တုိက္ပဲြျပင္းထန္လာျခင္းအေပၚ သေဘာထားထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

By Ta’ang Students and Youth Union , Ta’ang Women’s Organization and Ta’ang Legal Aid

Ta Long Villagers Hold Blessing Ceremony Against Controversial Dams on Namtu/Myitnge River

By Ta Long Villagers

UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar to Hold Press Conference in New York on Sexual and Gender-based Violence

By UN Fact Finding Mission , UN Human Rights Council

UNHCR Statement on Voluntary Repatriation to Myanmar

By UNHCR , the UN Refugee Agency

USCIRF Statement on UN Report of “Genocidal Intent” by Burmese Military in Sexual Violence Against Rohingya Muslims and Others

By U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

U.S. Continues to Push for Action Two Years after Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing

By U.S. Department of State

The Statement of WLB Welcomes the Report released by the UN Fact Finding Mission – FFM

By Women’s League of Burma



5 Gaps in MNHRC’s Draft Strategic Plan

By Free Expression Myanmar

ျမန္မာ့တပ္မေတာ္၏ စီးပြားေရးအက်ိဳးစီးပြား

By Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Myanmar and the Gendered Impact of Its Ethnic Conflicts – A/HRC/42/CRP.4

By Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံအေရွ႕ေတာင္ပိုင္းေဒသမွ လံုၿခံဳေရး၊ တရားမွ်တေရး၊ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္ေရး

By Karen Peace Support Network and Saferworld

Blood Amber: Military Resource Grab Clears out Indigenous Peoples in Kachin State’s Hugawng Valley

By Kachin Development Networking Group

ျမန္မာျပည္ဆိုင္ရာ လြတ္လပ္ေသာ ႏိုင္ငံတကာ အခ်က္အလက္ရွာေဖြေရး မစ္ရွင္၏ အေသးစိတ္ ေတြ႔ရွိခ်က္မ်ားအေပၚ အစီရင္ခံစာ

By UN Fact Finding Mission , UN Human Rights Council

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”