UNHCR announces that it will not participate in the Myanmar Military Council and the Rohingya refugee talks.
It is said that there is no change in UNHCR's position for the Rohingyas to return to Myanmar. According to UNHCR's observation, the current conditions in Rakhine State are not yet in a state where Rohingya refugees can return.
At the same time, UNHCR reiterated that every refugee has the right to return to their country of origin based on all circumstances, including the benefits and risks of returning. The statement also said that no refugee should be forced.
Regarding the prospect of repatriation of refugees, Bangladesh: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) learned that the Burmese Military Council delegation went to Bangladesh to meet with a group of refugees for a two-country pilot project. However, on March 19th, a statement was issued yesterday saying that UNHCR was not involved in those talks.
Since the beginning of the current problem, Bangladesh has always said that refugees can return voluntarily.
UNHCR considers consultation with refugees in Bangladesh and all stakeholders to support refugee return efforts. Here, in connection with the situation in Rakhine State, UNHCR considers that it is important for the refugees to decide on all the situations, including the beneficial and dangerous ones, and building trust between the communities.
This is particularly important as many refugees have repeatedly said they hope to return to Myanmar if the situation is in an acceptable state, UNHCR said in a statement.
UN spokesperson Stephen Dujarric said at a UN press conference held on March 17th that there is absolutely no involvement of the United Nations in the pilot project being carried out by the Myanmar Military Council for the return of the Rohingya. AFP news reported on March 18th that two UN officials said that the situation in Myanmar is still uncertain for the return of the Rohingya, but that the UNHCR helped military council officials travel to Bangladesh to repatriate the refugees.
A 17-member team headed by Rakhine State Military Council Social Minister, U Aung Myo, arrived in Taka Nat town on the Bangladesh border on March 15th to interview the refugees for the possibility of repatriating them to Myanmar.
A UNHCR spokesperson in Myanmar told AFP that UNHCR provided support for some Burmese military council officials to travel to Bangladesh from Myanmar to facilitate the refugees' interaction with the currently ruling military council authorities. A senior UN official in Bangladesh confirmed to AFP on March 17th that the UNHCR and WFP World Food Program in Myanmar have arranged ships for military council officials to come to Bangladesh.