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Cate Blanchett urges UN not to ‘fail Rohingya again’ as refugee crisis continues

It is the first anniversary of the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state which drove thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee Myanmar 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Tuesday 28 August 2018 22:00 BST
Cate Blanchett has urged the UN not to fail the Rohingya again

Cate Blanchett has urged the United Nations not to "fail the Rohingya again" in an impassioned speech before the world body.

Speaking on the first anniversary of the outbreak of violence that drove hundreds of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from their homes in the western Rakhine state, she said the world had already failed the minority group before.

"Please let’s not fail them again," she said to the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

A recent UN report by independent investigators stated Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings, gang rapes, burning whole villages down, and other atrocities with a “genocidal intent”.

The report also recommended the prosecution of the country’s commander in chief and five generals.

In Tuesday's meeting, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the points made in the report “deserve serious consideration” but stopped short of using the word 'genocide' in his prepared remarks.

Interview with Keya, who is working in Cox's Bazar refugee camp where Rohingya people are living in temporary shelter

He referenced the report, however, and said the violations documented “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”.

Mr Guterres was emphatic in thanking Bangladesh for taking in the approximately 700,000 Rohingya refugees who had been forced to flee Rakhine state, across the border.

Ms Blanchett said it was one of the most “visible and significant gestures of humanity”.

Bangladesh is already experiencing its own economic and development issues, coupled with inevitable infrastructure damage after monsoons.

She noted on her visit to Cox’s Bazar last year, the area in Bangladesh to which many of the refugees have fled, many of the surrounding villagers have taken extra people into their homes and shelters.

Their “needs are vast” and “the suffering acute” she said, but “if people with so little can step up, why can’t we do it better?”

Mr Guterres made a plea for more international cooperation in providing relief for the refugees, noting the efforts are still “significantly underfunded” - only 33 per cent of needed funds have come in from other countries.

He was also clear, money is not the only need at this point. The goal of the UN is to see the “safe” and “dignified return” of the Rohingya Muslims to Rakhine.

"There can be no excuse for delaying the search for dignified solutions that will allow people to return to their areas of origin in safety and dignity, in line with international standards and human rights,” he said.

Ms Blanchett noted this meant full citizenship rights which would ensure the population had access to education, healthcare, and could feel relatively safe from harm from the military and government.

“There are no shortcuts, no alternatives,” she said.

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