When the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar completed a 444-page report last year documenting atrocities committed by security forces against Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya minority, its experts reported to the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly, the Security Council, and a global audience via the media. Last month, the mission’s Experts took it upon themselves to report to the Rohingya themselves.
On a May 5 visit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, FFM Chairman Marzuki Darusman and Expert member Christopher Sidoti met with scores of refugees – the majority of whom had fled an explosion of violence in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State two years ago.
Among those present were witnesses, survivors and community leaders who had contributed vital testimony to the report. The meeting marked the first time the Experts were able to formally brief them, and the first time the Rohingya were able to pose questions of their own.
Most of those present asked about the slow pace of justice and said they were desperate to return home. Trapped inside a vast network of camps that have become the largest refugee settlement in the world (900,000 people), they complained they were being excluded from discussions over their future by governments and humanitarian organizations.
One man stood up to ask about some of the greatest challenges the exiled Rohingya now face: access to education, and jobs. “Our concern is what’s going to happen to the next generation,” he said. “If we’re stuck here … what will happen to them?”
A few minutes later, a woman stood up to thank the Experts for taking the time to listen. “In Myanmar we never had the chance to speak about our rights and our demands,” she said, “and even here in the camps women especially don’t have that opportunity.”
The woman said the FFM’s report had helped inform the world about the “indescribable violence” the Rohingya community had experienced. She added: “we would like to know, how can this type of suffering be stopped from happening again?”