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UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee to visit Bhashan Char

  • Published at 11:53 am January 23rd, 2019
File photo of construction work to build houses for 100,000 Rohingya refugees at Bhashan Char, in the Bay of Bengal Dhaka Tribune

Lee will present her findings and recommendations at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2019

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee will soon visit Bhashan Char – an island in Noakhali where the government has planned to shift the Rohingyas – to see the situation on the ground.

Lee, who arrived on Saturday, is now visiting Cox's Bazar to see for herself the Rohingya situation while Myanmar continuously denies her access to Rakhine State.

The UN special rapporteur has already rescheduled her press conference for Friday instead of Thursday, reports UNB.

"Change date for Press Conference to 25 JAN!! Due to access to Bashan Char island!!! Watch live too!" she tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.

She is likely to leave Cox's Bazar on Thursday to visit the island, said an official.

Lee will present her findings and recommendations at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2019.

The Myanmar government has maintained its decision to cease cooperation with the special rapporteur and refused her entry into Myanmar.

Earlier on Sunday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said the government will take all interested foreigners, including diplomats, to Bhashan Char to see the situation on the ground once the work is complete.

The UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee met the foreign minister at his office on Sunday and discussed issues related to the Rohingya crisis.

Talking to reporters, she said it was a fruitful meeting and hoped that her office will collaborate and work together with the foreign minister’s office to address the Rohingya crisis.

Lee, who earlier said incidents in Rakhine State bear the "hallmarks of genocide" and called for accountability in the strongest terms, also wanted to visit Bhashan Char in Noakhali.

Abdul Momen said the Rohingya issue is a big problem Bangladesh is facing now and wants its early solution.

"It is good if we can resolve it quickly and any type of delay may create uncertainty," he said mentioning that the delay in resolving the problem might affect other countries in the subcontinent.

The foreign minister said Bangladesh needs assistance from all countries and he sought support from Japan. "They [Japan] have much leverage on Myanmar."

Terming Myanmar a friend of Bangladesh, Abdul Momen said this single (Rohingya) issue has pushed Bangladesh into a problem as Bangladesh is hosting over one million Rohingyas.

"It is not the responsibility of Bangladesh alone to send them back and resolve their problems. But it is a responsibility of all people and all the countries in the world," he said.

Asked whether he is frustrated due to the delay in commencing the repatriation, he said he is not.

"I'm optimistic. I believe there is a solution to every crisis. You need to have patience," the foreign minister said, adding: “We are thinking afresh to find a solution.”

"I still seek to engage with the Myanmar government and I remain committed to my mandate to monitor the situation of human rights in Myanmar. 

I will continue to meet with people from Myanmar and speak out about human rights issues that occur around the country," said Lee in a statement announcing her Thailand and Bangladesh visits.

The Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar are the victims of human rights violations committed in the midst of the violence that erupted in August 2017 forcing over 800,000 Rohingyas to take shelter in Bangladesh.

They have been living in camps administered by UNHCR and the government of Bangladesh with support from a slew of UN agencies and international NGOs since August 2017.

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