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NDAA Includes Sanctions on Burmese Officials Responsible for Ethnic Cleansing

Washington, D.C. – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) issued the following statement on House passage of H.R. 5515, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019:

“In an increasingly dangerous world, it is critical that our troops have the support they need to keep America safe. This bill includes vital funding for military training and much-needed equipment, and I was pleased to join a strong bipartisan majority in passing it through the House.

“The NDAA also addresses other urgent priorities, including ethnic cleansing in Burma. This provision imposes new sanctions on Burmese military officials and bars their forces from U.S. joint drills. Over the past year, the Burmese military has escalated its decades-long campaign against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. More than 700,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee and thousands have been slaughtered. Entire villages have been burned and bulldozed. I want to thank Ranking Member Engel for authoring this important provision to help put a stop to these atrocities.”

NOTE: Ranking Member Engel’s Amendment #43 was approved by the House by a vote of 382-30. The Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved the measure at a markup last week.

U.S. House backs measure to clamp down on Myanmar over Rohingya rights

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday in favour of legislation to pressure Myanmar, also known as Burma, to improve its record on human rights.

Lawmakers voted 382-30 to approve the measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a massive defence policy bill that is one of the few pieces of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress every year.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar since August to escape a military crackdown, launched in response to Rohingya insurgent attacks. Refugees have reported murder, rape and arson by Myanmar troops.

Washington has called the army response “ethnic cleansing,” which Myanmar has denied, saying its security forces were conducting a legitimate counter-insurgency operation against “Bengali terrorists.”

If included in a final version of the NDAA, typically passed by the House and Senate later in the year, the measure would, among other things, bar U.S. security assistance or cooperation with Myanmar’s military or security forces until they have made progress on human rights.

It also would impose sanctions on current or former senior Myanmar military officials who perpetrated or were responsible for serious human rights abuses.

The amendment was introduced by Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Earlier this month the United Nations Security Council urged Myanmar’s government to carry out transparent investigations into accusations of violence against the Rohingya Muslims and allow immediate aid access to the region.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle

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NDP: Refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court

On Wednesday, the NDP will present a motion in the House of Commons calling on the government to support a referral of the situation in Myanmar by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court, among other actions to seek justice and accountability for the atrocities that the Burmese military has committed against the Rohingya people.

“The campaign of ethnic cleansing waged by the Burmese military against the Rohingya people in Myanmar is nothing short of horrific, and it should shock the conscience of all of us into action,” said Helene Laverdière, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic. “It is my sincere hope that all Members of the House of Commons will be on the right side of history and support this motion for justice and accountability.”

Over 750,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar since October 2016, escaping a deliberate, large-scale military campaign of killings, rape, arson and other atrocities that may well amount to crimes against humanity. The Government of Myanmar has been unwilling to credibly investigate these crimes and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

“At a time when international justice efforts are facing serious obstacles, Canada has an obligation – as a founding member of the International Criminal Court – to support the Court’s operations and fight the culture of impunity that fuels the commission of these mass atrocity crimes,” said Cheryl Hardcastle, NDP Critic for International Human Rights. “Canada should heed the calls of the Report of Special Envoy to Myanmar Bob Rae, take an important step in advancing international justice and support this motion.”

The motion also calls on the government to support the work of the UN Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, increase diplomatic efforts to call on all States to support an ICC referral, and impose new sanctions on those responsible for the crimes committed against the Rohingya people acts.

The motion reads as follows:
That the House : (a) acknowledge that (i) over 750,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar since October 2016 to escape the Burmese military’s large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing, (ii) the atrocities committed by the Burmese military include sexual violence, mass killings and widespread arson and may well amount to crimes against humanity, (iii) Burmese authorities have been unwilling to credibly investigate these horrific crimes and bring those responsible to account; and (b) therefore call on the Government of Canada to (i) implement the recommendations in the Report of Special Envoy to Myanmar Bob Rae, (ii) support the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who has described the campaign against the Rohingya as a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing,” and has said that he “has strong suspicions that acts of genocide may have taken place in Rakhine State since August,” (iii) redouble efforts in accountability and evidence-gathering; (iv) publicly support a referral of the situation in Myanmar by the United Nations Security Council to the International Criminal Court, and (v) increase diplomatic efforts to call on all Member States of the United Nations, particularly members of the United Nations Security Council, to support and advocate for such a referral; (vi) impose tough new sanctions on those responsible for these acts, including the Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

USAID Administrator Mark Green coming to Bangladesh before Myanmar visit

The US embassy in Dhaka said Administrator Mark Green will travel to Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Thailand from May 13 to May 23.

USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia Gloria Steele and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Ambassador Mark Storella will accompany Green as part of the delegation.

While in Bangladesh and Burma, Green plans to visit several sites where the US government is providing humanitarian assistance to displaced Rohingyas and affected host communities.

He is expected to make major announcement for the support of Rohingya refugees during a visit in Cox’s bazaar on Tuesday.

He will also meet with government of Bangladesh officials.

In Burma, the administrator will meet with civil-society representatives, students, and youth leaders, as well as Government of Burma officials to discuss steps needed to address the crises in Rakhine State and violence in other areas of the country.

He will visit Bangkok from May 21 to 22 to meet with USAID Mission Directors from across Asia to discuss the implementation of the President’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.

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Process as well as Substance is Important in ICC’s Rohingya Decision

COX’S BAZAR, BANGLADESH – NOVEMBER 02: A Bangladeshi border guard from the BGB gestures as he controls a crowd of Rohingya Muslim refugees waiting to proceed to camps after crossing the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh near the Naf River on November 2, 2017 near Anjuman Para in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have flooded into Bangladesh to flee an offensive by Myanmar’s military that the United Nations has called ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’. The refugee population continues to swell further, with thousands more Rohingya Muslims making the perilous journey on foot toward the border, or paying smugglers to take them across by water in wooden boats. Hundreds are known to have died trying to escape, and survivors arrive with horrifying accounts of villages burned, women raped, and scores killed in the ‘clearance operations’ by Myanmar’s army and Buddhist mobs that were sparked by militant attacks on security posts in Rakhine state on August 25, 2017. What the Rohingya refugees flee to is a different kind of suffering in sprawling makeshift camps rife with fears of malnutrition, cholera, and other diseases. Aid organizations are struggling to keep pace with the scale of need and the staggering number of them – an estimated 60 percent – who are children arriving alone. Bangladesh, whose acceptance of the refugees has been praised by humanitarian officials for saving lives, has urged the creation of an internationally-recognized ‘safe zone’ where refugees can return, though Rohingya Muslims have long been persecuted in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. World leaders are still debating how to confront the country and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who championed democracy, but now appears unable or unwilling to stop the army’s brutal crackdown. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

On April 9, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, asked the Pre-Trial Chamber for an advisory opinion declaring that the Court has jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of some 670,000 Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The issue arises because Myanmar is not a State Party to the Rome Statute, and therefore the ICC would not ordinarily have jurisdiction over crimes committed on the territory of Myanmar by Myanmar nationals absent the specific consent of the state or a referral from the U.N. Security Council, neither of which is likely to happen anytime soon. The ICC Prosecutor argued, however, that with respect to the crime of humanity of deportation, the crime is only complete once a population is forced over an international border into another country. Since deportation requires being sent to somewhere, an essential element of the crime occurs in the state of arrival which, in this case, is Bangladesh, a State Party to the ICC.

The Prosecutor’s substantive arguments for jurisdiction are compelling, though not everyone is persuaded, and it has been noted that if the Court found jurisdiction, it would only be for the crime of deportation, and not for the myriad of other international crimes, including genocide, that the Rohingya people have allegedly suffered in Myanmar. Less attention has been focused, however, on the procedure by which the Prosecutor is raising this issue in the first place. Because this is the first time that the Prosecutor has sought an advisory opinion, the Pre-Trial Chamber will establish important precedent in this case regarding whether the Prosecutor has the authority to seek an advisory opinion, and the process that the Pre-Trial Chamber will follow if such a path exists. Both the Prosecutor and the Pre-Trial Chamber should consider focusing more attention on these important questions.

Ordinarily, questions of jurisdiction arise within the context of a “situation,” when the Prosecutor seeks to open an investigation into a particular conflict, or of a “case,” when the Prosecutor seeks to charge individual perpetrators. Here, for the first time, the Prosecutor is relying on a little-discussed sentence in Article 19(3) of the Rome Statute that simply states that “[t]he Prosecutor may seek a ruling from the Court regarding a question of jurisdiction or admissibility.” (“Admissibility” references the question of whether a national jurisdiction is already prosecuting the cases targeted by the Court.) Because this provision contains no apparent restriction regarding when the Prosecutor may seek such a ruling, the Prosecutor argued that she may do so at any time, even absent a pending situation or case.

Before reaching the merits of the Prosecutor’s arguments regarding the Court’s jurisdiction over the Rohingya deportation, therefore, the Pre-Trial Chamber will first have to decide whether she is right about being able to seek an advisory opinion on this issue at all without initiating a request to open a situation or case. And here there are arguments going both ways. Regarding the Statute’s text and structure, the Prosecutor is correct that Article 19(3) itself contains no explicit limitation regarding timing, but the provision is contained within a lengthy Article that is otherwise entirely devoted to challenges to jurisdiction or admissibility within a situation or case. In context, therefore, it might seem that the Prosecutor is only authorized to raise a challenge in such circumstances. Moreover, given that the Rome Statute nowhere else appears to permit the Prosecutor to seek, or the judges to issue, an advisory opinion, it is odd that the Statute would permit such a procedure here in a single sentence without any elaboration whatsoever. The Prosecutor may “seek” a ruling, but is the Pre-Trial Chamber required to give one? Are there procedures for developing the issues before the judges? Is there any right of appeal? What is the status of the decision if the Prosecutor later opens an investigation and brings charges? If the Pre-Trial Chamber finds that there is jurisdiction, can later defendants challenge that ruling? It is surprising that none of these questions are addressed in the Statute.

Regarding functionalist arguments, there are generally good reasons to avoid advisory opinions. The existence of a case or controversy ensures that legal issues will be litigated by parties with a vested interest and that they will be argued and decided in a context that is concrete. Furthermore, there may be prudential value in limiting the Court to decisions that it must take rather than running the risk of using up precious legitimacy capital on resolving abstract matters. On the other hand, the Court’s resources are extremely limited, and therefore there may be instances where a preliminary ruling on jurisdiction could save the Prosecutor and the Court significant resources. The question of jurisdiction over the Rohingya deportation is just such a case: If the Court rules that there is no jurisdiction, the Prosecutor will not proceed with commencing a preliminary examination or investigation.

In the event the Pre-Trial Chamber agrees with the Prosecutor that Article 19(3) permits her to seek rulings on jurisdiction and admissibility outside of a situation or case, both the Prosecutor and the judges should give further thought to when such an advisory opinion would be appropriate, and the procedures that should be followed when one is sought. In her filing, the Prosecutor says with respect to the use of Article 19(3) that it is solely within her discretion to decide when to seek such a ruling, and that she will be “guided only by the particular circumstances and the nature of the issue in question.” Without binding herself, she might consider elaborating further on the factors that might cause her to seek a ruling in other circumstances. She could begin with the considerations that seemed to be important in this case, including her contention that the issue presented is sufficiently concrete for the judges to decide and the determinative nature of this decision to any future preliminary examination or investigation. Providing some guidance will also help the Prosecutor address the future demands, which are sure to come, that she seek rulings on other questions of jurisdiction or admissibility.

Further, the judges should focus on the procedures that they will follow when the Prosecutor makes an Article 19(3) request. In this case, the judges quite appropriately issued an invitation to Bangladesh to submit written observations on the Prosecutor’s jurisdictional arguments. But the judges should go further and solicit as well the views of the government of Myanmar, which has already expressed “serious concern” about the Prosecutor’s request. In addition, the judges should consider appointing an independent counsel to present views that are contrary to those presented by the prosecution. The Prosecutor has argued for a finding of jurisdiction, but there will not necessarily be anyone on the other side arguing against such a ruling. Admittedly, this would be a problem as well if the Prosecution simply sought authorization to open an investigation in the situation, also an ex parte procedure, but if a thorny legal issue arose in such a context, appointment of an independent counsel might be appropriate there as well. The problem of having just one side to these proceedings was highlighted last week when the Pre-Trial Chamber scheduled a closed, ex parte hearing with the Prosecution on its jurisdiction request to be held next month, a move that has been questioned by Kevin Jon Heller. As Heller points out, it seems odd to have a closed hearing on what should be a purely legal question. However, assuming there are good (but unknown) reasons to have a closed hearing, it would certainly add to the legitimacy of the proceedings and the ultimate outcome if an independent counsel were also present at the closed hearing to offer arguments in opposition to the prosecution. There is little doubt that the Prosecutor would welcome the appointment of an independent counsel to ensure that the judges heard all views on the jurisdiction question to be decided.

It may very well be that the issue of jurisdiction over the Rohingya deportation lends itself very well to a pre-situation, pre-case determination by the judges. But this case will establish important precedent for the Prosecutor’s ability to seek advisory opinions on jurisdiction or admissibility in the future. To that end, the Prosecutor and judges at the ICC should ensure that the procedures are sufficiently robust to help guarantee the best and most legitimate outcomes. 

War crimes judges to hold closed talks on Rohingya crisis

War crimes judges will hold closed-door talks next month to discuss whether to allow the launch of a probe into the forced exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.

Only chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will appear before the three judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) hearing on June 20, presiding judge Peter Kovacs said in his Friday order, seen by AFP on Monday.

Some 700,000 people from the stateless Muslim minority have fled Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state into neighbouring Bangladesh since August to escape a bloody military crackdown.

The violence has left a trail of torched villages in its wake, amid allegations of murder and rape at the hands of troops and vigilantes.

In an unprecedented move last month, Bensouda asked judges at the world’s only permanent war crimes court to rule whether she can investigate the deportations as a crime against humanity.

It is a legally complicated request, as Myanmar is not a signatory and member of the Rome Statute which underpins the ICC.

Bangladesh is, however, and Bensouda argued that should give her office jurisdiction to investigate the Rohingya’s plight.

She likened deportation to “a cross-border shooting”, arguing the crime “is not completed until the bullet (fired in one state) strikes and kills the victim (standing in another state)”.

“The chamber convenes a status conference on 20 June 2018, to be held in closed session, only in the presence of the prosecutor,” Kovacs ordered.

He accompanied the order with a confidential annex which he said contained issues which Bensouda must address at the June hearing.

Set up in 2002 in The Hague, the ICC acts to prosecute the worst abuses including genocide in places where national tribunals are unwilling or unable to act.

The Myanmar army in the mainly Buddhist nation has denied any allegations, saying its campaign has been a legitimate response to Rohingya militant attacks last year that killed about a dozen border guard police.

The Southeast Asian nation has voiced “serious concern” over the move at the ICC.

“Nowhere in the ICC Charter does it say that the court has jurisdiction over states which have not accepted that jurisdiction,” Myanmar said in a statement.

The special court examining Bensouda’s request has also asked Bangladesh to submit any written observations it may have on the case by June 11.

U.S. criticizes China for shielding Myanmar from U.N. action

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States indirectly criticized China on Monday for shielding Myanmar from strong U.N. Security Council action over a military crackdown against mainly Rohingya Muslims that the U.S. and other countries have denounced as ethnic cleansing.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley did not mention China by name, but China proposed substantial amendments to a British-drafted Security Council statement on Myanmar last week. The 15-member council eventually agreed a weaker statement.

The Security Council met on Monday to discuss a visit by envoys to Myanmar and Bangladesh two weeks ago.

Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August last year sparked a military operation that sent nearly 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

“Some members of the council have kept us from taking action for cynical and self-interested reasons,” Haley said. “Some undermined the unity of the council demonstrated during the trip with unhelpful edits that only weakened the council’s message.”

Speaking before Haley, China’s U.N. Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu told the Security Council that Myanmar and Bangladesh should be encouraged to solve the crisis bilaterally to make sure it doesn’t “drag on or become more complicated.”

“The council should continue to encourage Myanmar and Bangladesh to increase consultations and cooperation for the early implementation of the bilateral arrangement,” he said.

Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete the voluntary repatriation of the refugees within two years but differences between the two sides remain and implementation of the plan has been slow.

Diplomats said Russia has also backed China in council discussions on Myanmar.

Speaking after Haley, Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said the unity of the council on the issue was important and he hoped some members “will not fall prey to the temptation of using this situation to pursue their narrow, domestic political aims.”

Fleeing refugees have reported killings, rapes and arson on a large scale. Myanmar denies ethnic cleansing and has said its operations in Rakhine were a legitimate response to attacks on security forces by Rohingya insurgents.

“The government of Myanmar has stated time and again that no violation of human rights will be condoned,” Myanmar’s U.N. Ambassador Hau Do Suan told council on Monday. “Allegations supported by evidence will be investigated and action taken in accordance with the law.”

The United States and Canada have imposed unilateral sanctions against a general in Myanmar’s military for his role in the crackdown and the European Union is preparing individual sanctions.

Haley, who did not travel to Myanmar and Bangladesh, said that the Security Council had “unique tools to encourage Burma to take real steps towards resolving this crisis,” though she did not elaborate.

“We should move quickly to adopt a resolution that institutes real steps to resolve this enormous and growing humanitarian and human rights crisis,” Haley said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Clive McKeef

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UK Government has been ‘unacceptably’ slow to respond to persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar, MPs warn

International Development Committee condemns ministers’ decision to send just two UK experts to help prevent sexual violence against refugees

An influential committee of MPs has criticised the Government for an “unacceptable” failure to respond to the plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

The House of Commons International Development Committee said ministers had not acted quickly enough in sending experts to help prevent sexual violence against the Muslim minority group in Myanmar’s Rakhine province.

Despite “substantial evidence” of rape, sexual violence, torture and mutilations being carried out against the Rohingya, the committee said, barely any UK experts have been dispatched to the area.

The UK Government’s 2012 Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI), established a group of 73 experts who can be sent to conflict areas around the globe to help prevent sexual violence and bring perpetrators to justice. However, just two of them have been sent to Myanmar and refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The UN estimates that more than 650,000 Rohingya have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh since last August, while charities say more than 10,000 people have been killed in the violence.

International observers have accused the Burmese military of carrying out widespread attacks against the civilian Rohingya population. The International Development Committee said rape and sexual violence had been been used continuously in Myanmar as “weapons of war”.

In a damning report, the MPs said: “Given the airplay that the UK’s ‘Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative’ has been given by the Government, we are disappointed that it took so long to send any of its specialist resources on sexual violence to advise on dealing with the experiences of the Rohingya in Rakhine State.

The committee’s chair, Labour MP Stephen Twigg, added: “The UK has 70 experts ready to deploy to Bangladesh to assist with this situation and yet we haven’t sent them. This flies in the face of the UK’s commitment to deter gender-based violence, championed by William Hague in 2012.

“It is unacceptable that it is taking the UK so long to send any specialist resources on sexual violence to advise on the experiences of the Rohingya in Rakhine State. Previous reports from our committee (2006 and 2014) reported the high incidence of rape in conflicts in Burma. The UK Government should have expected this and prepared accordingly. As an international community, we should consider what message this conveys to other regimes.”

The committee also expressed “grave concern” over plans to repatriate 100,000 Rohingya from Bangladesh to Myanmar without adequate guarantees about their safety.

The MPs said: “We are concerned by the emphasis on returning refugees to the Rakhine by the Bangladesh and Burmese government when the situation still seems fraught and very far from safe, dignified and durable.”

“It is unacceptable to propose that the Rohingya be returned to live in Burmese-run internment camps; inevitably to be faced with further privations, potential abuses and uncertain access for outside agencies; and likely only to be displaced once again if there is further violence.”

UK Government ministers have previously called on the Burmese authorities to conduct a “thorough and transparent” investigation into allegations of violence against Rohingya civilians. However, previous such reports have cleared the military of wrongdoing – a conclusion the UK Government called “simply not credible”.

The International Development Committee criticised the UK’s approach, saying: “We seriously doubt the efficacy of urging the Burmese authorities to investigate the conduct of its own forces personnel in a “thorough and transparent manner”.

“The Burmese internal inquiry has already cleared its forces of any wrongdoing in a way which the UK Government describes as “simply not credible”. We urge the UK Government to seek other paths to a resolution of this issue.”

It added: “The UK Government should reflect on why so much evidence of discrimination, marginalisation and abuse of the Rohingya people within Rakhine State in Burma was seemingly ignored for so long, rather than translated into effective action by the international community.

“We recommend that the UK, and like-minded states, should reflect on how to establish a more proactive approach to atrocity awareness and prevention.”

Kate Allen, Amnesty International’s UK Director, said: “MPs are right to express concern about the proposed returns of Rohingya to Myanmar (Burma), we share their alarm.

”Amnesty has declared what’s happening in Myanmar to be apartheid – both the civilian and military authorities in Myanmar need to dismantle that, before any of its victims can be expected to decide whether to return.

“If Rohingya people do choose to go back to Rakhine State where they faced such appalling discrimination and violence, then Amnesty and other monitors must be allowed access.”

A Government spokesperson said “The UK has led the international response to the Rohingya crisis and this report recognises our swift action. We are providing lifesaving UK aid to victims of ethnic cleansing, calling on the Burmese military to stop the violence and pushing the international community to step up their support.

“We have been clear in our condemnation of the terrible atrocities that have occurred in Rakhine State; we have now raised Burma five times at the UN Security Council to keep the international community’s attention focused on this crisis and we continue to engage with the Burmese authorities at the most senior levels to urge the inhumane violence to end.

“As the International Development Secretary has said today and when she visited Bangladesh in November, the conditions for a safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingya people to Burma are a long way from being met. We continue to push for returns to be in line with UN principles and for international oversight on both sides of the border.

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Saudi Arabia, UAE agree to join Malaysia to help Rohingya refugees

KLUANG: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to cooperate with Malaysia to help the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein (pix) said this was stated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Salman and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Zayed Al-Nahyan recently.

“During my visit to Morocco, I had contacted the two crown princes and they agreed to join us (Malaysia) to help the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

“The UAE and Saudi Arabia have agreed to channel donations and medicines to Hospital Medan Malaysia at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and God-willing, in the near future we will see the three flags of Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE fly in Bangladesh,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters after the handover ceremony of a school van and mock cheque for bus fare subsidy for students of Ladang Landak in Paloh near here today.

Hishammuddin, who is also Special Functions Minister and Sembrong MP said it was not easy for three countries to galvanise efforts to help the Rohingya, but it could help to enhance the image of an Islamic state that had long been regarded as extremist, backward and fighting among themselves.

“An agreement has been reached. We hope to have the three flags raised during Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s visit to the refugee camp, which is expected to be this month,” he said.

Meanwhile, on his visit to Morocco from Dec 22-24 last year, he noted the country was seen as a gateway to Malaysia in building relations with new countries because Morocco was located between Europe, West Asia and Africa.

He said relations with Morocco would also help Malaysia improve intelligence and military in combating terrorism. — Bernama

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OIC delegation to visit Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps

The visit is undertaken, in coordination with the government of Bangladesh, to ascertain the human rights and humanitarian situation of the Rohingyas in Myanmar

A delegation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will visit the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar.

The delegation will visit the camps for four days from Wednesday to acquire first-hand information on the state of human rights violations faced by the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

During the visit to Cox’s Bazar, the officials from the OIC General Secretariat will discuss humanitarian needs and other issues of concern with the relevant authorities in Bangladesh and present their report to OIC Secretary General Dr Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen.

A detailed report both on the human rights situation of the Rohingyas in Myanmar and their urgent humanitarian needs will be presented to the upcoming OIC Council of Foreign Ministers scheduled to take place in May this year in Dhaka.

The delegation consists of members of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), one of the principle statutory organs of the OIC – dealing with human rights issues, and officials from relevant departments of the OIC General Secretariat including the Minorities, Information and Humanitarian Affairs.

The visit is undertaken, in coordination with the government of Bangladesh, to ascertain the human rights and humanitarian situation of the Rohingyas in Myanmar, according to OIC statement.

Despite repeated requests by the IPHRC, Myanmar authorities did not allow to undertake a fact-finding visit on the human rights situation faced by the Rohingyas in the Rakhine State.

In the absence of a positive response from the Myanmar Government, the IPHRC has decided to visit the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar for the report purpose.

IPHRC has routinely pronounced its strong concerns and condemnation on the state of human rights violations faced by the Rohingyas in Myanmar at all relevant UN forums.

The OIC has repeatedly called upon the Myanmar government to allow the Rohingyas to return to the country safely and with dignity.

Meanwhile, Indonesian President Joko Widodo is likely to arrive in Dhaka on a two-day official visit this month to discuss bilateral, regional and global issues including the Rohingya issue.

The two countries are now in discussion to finalize the visit, a foreign ministry source said.

The Indonesian president, during the visit, will have meetings with President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

In September last, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited Dhaka and discussed the Rohingya issues.

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