Here are a few updates on events in Burma.
1. Occasional New Mandala contributor, Ashley South spoke at a Burma Round Table at the Frontline Club in London last Wednesday, together with a representative of Save the Children, and journalists from the Sunday Telegraph and BBC World Service. Worth a look. Here is the link.
2. Awzar Thi of the Rule of Lords has reacted vigorously to the claim made at the ANU discussion on Cyclone Nargis that there had been “exaggerated, overly emotional and unsubstantiated media reporting” about the cyclone.
Something very weird is going on: early this week the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres visited a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, there a woman told him: “Let there be an end to the military dictatorship and establishment of democracy, peace and human rights in Myanmar, before taking us back there”. Nonetheless, one day later Guterres had a meeting with foreign ministry officials in Dhaka, and after he declared: “It is our objective to re-establish a trilateral mechanism among Bangladesh, Myanmar and UNHCR for repatriation of the refugees to Myanmar” and added “Enhanced cooperation that now exists between Myanmar and the international community will create opportunities in the future, hopefully for more meaningful dialogue,”. Bangladesh said it would make fresh efforts for their ‘voluntary’ repatriation.
Hey, wait a minute. Rohingya people in Bangladesh don’t want to go bak to Burma without democracy. They face a terrible persecution by the junta and the country is now in the aftermath of a terrible disaster. Is now the best moment to reactivate the “tripartite mechanism” to repatriate the Rohingya? The announcement is specially puzzling when you find in the UNHCR site a piece published in February that the situation is improving in the camps because “the government has allowed UNHCR to make substantial improvements in the refugees’ lives, including inviting in other UN agencies and independent aid organizations to offer services.” And the Australian goverment donated $ 1.4 m two weeks ago.
Honestly, I can’t understand why UNHCR think that now is a good moment to repatriate those refugees. Do you know something about it?