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On Right of Rohingya to Self-Identify, Rapporteur Says Yes, UNDP Calls It Tense

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 3, updated -- As Myanmar offers Rohingya the “choice” of re-classifying themselves as Bengalis or being put into camps or worse, Inner City Press on September 29 asked:

Inner City Press: It’s been reported that the Government of Myanmar is building camps for those Rohingya who don’t accept reclassification as Bengalis. The camps are under construction and the proposed offer to Rohingyas has been reported on. So given that seems to be happening, what is the response of Mr. Nambiar or the Secretary-General?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: Let me look at those reports and get back to you.

The next day Dujarric returned with this sunny version of events:

In response to a question yesterday on Myanmar, I think by you, Matthew, the office of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the country notes that a status verification exercise has recently commenced in Rakhine, as part of the implementation of the Rakhine Committee Action Plan. This process is ongoing, and it is hoped that a significant number of the members of the Rohingya community currently inside the IDP camps, as well as those outside, will become eligible for citizenship following this verification exercise. Meanwhile, in respect of those persons who may not be deemed qualified for citizenship, it is hoped that they will continue to be treated fully in accordance with established international humanitarian and human rights principles.”

There is a problem with this formulation, “continue to be treated in accordance with human rights principles” -- the current refusal to allow the right of self-identification outright violates human rights law, even according to the UN’s new special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee.

So when UNDP's Regional Director for Asia Haoliang Xu, along with OCHA's John Ging, came to the UN Press Briefing Room on October 3 and talked about Myanmar's progress, Inner City Press -- initially unbranded -- asked about the rights of the Rohingya to self-identify as such.

Xu said that the work is controversial, one has to understand history. This seems to indicate an acceptance of the denial of the right to self-identify. After a late arrival from the old UN Correspondents Association insisted on branding the press conference “UNCA” (now, the UN's Censorship Alliance), Inner City Press then offered thanks to Ging from FUNCA, and asked if different parts of the UN system have a different view of human rights, and this Rohingya question.

It was claimed that no, that the special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar is of course the expert. But why then is UNDP giving a different view of human rights?

Ging made a pitch for increased humanitarian aid to North Korea. Inner City Press asked which countries have provided the $26.6 million in aid that he cited, and an answer has been promised. Ging to his credit comes and does briefing when he returns from trips, and returns with answers. Watch this site.

Update: Ging's office at OCHA did return with this list of donors to DPRK: "The international donors to humanitarian assistance in the DPRK in 2014 are as follows: Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, France, Norway, Germany, Republic of Korea and Finland."

 We'll have more on this.


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