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Leaked Document Shows UN Participating in Rohingya Repatriation Pilot Despite Fears for Refugee Safety

March 16th, 2023  •  Author:   Myanmar Accountability Project  •  3 minute read
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Top UN Official Admits UN Markings Removed from UN Boat Used to Transport Junta Officials 

London, 16 March 2023: The Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP) has obtained an internal communication from the UN’s top official in Myanmar, the Resident Coordinator, Ramanathan Balakrishnan, which reveals a shocking double standard.

In it, Mr Balakrishnan openly confirms that the UN’s Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is participating in a pilot project to repatriate Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar, despite what the document says is “UNHCR’s assessment that conditions in Rakhine State (to which they will be returned) are currently not conducive to the safe and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees.”

MAP’s Director, Chris Gunness condemned this appalling decision “which yet again shows the UN cozying up to the genocidal junta, and puts at risk the lives of refugees, many of whom are too terrified to go back to their homes.  On the one hand the UN is saying it’s too dangerous for the refugees to go home and on the other hand it is participating in a pilot scheme to repatriate them.”

According to MAP’s Director, the UN is ceding to junta pressure to send the refugees home as part of a PR stunt, to show to the world that planned elections will be free and fair and supported by the people of Myanmar. “For the UN to be supporting this blatant piece of junta propaganda in advance of sham elections brings the UN’s involvement in the genocide of the Rohingya to a new low.”

An independent report commissioned by the UN in 2019 found that the UN’s inaction in 2017 made it complicit in the genocide of the Rohingya and though the so-called “Rosenthal Report” made corrective recommendations to the UN Secretary General, none of these were subsequently implemented.

The internal communication to UN staff also seeks to justify the UN’s controversial decision to transport officials of Myanmar’s illegal junta from northern Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where about a million Rohingya refugees who fled the 2017 genocide have taken refuge. Mr Balakrishnan admits that the UN was giving way to junta pressure. His communication says the decision to transport junta officials followed what he called “a very firm request”.

MAP condemns this “as a violation of the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality. MAP furthermore condemns the decision to remove UN markings from the boats used to transport the junta delegation. This highly regrettable decision seriously compromises the UN’s neutrality, it jeopardises aid deliveries across the country and puts at risk the lives humanitarian workers. How can anyone trust the UN now that it has admitted to disguising its vehicles in order to transport junta officials?”

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For further information and interview requests, please contact Chris Gunness at

[email protected] or on WhatsApp +447587698990.

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