France welcomes new United Nations special envoy to Myanmar

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The recent spate of violence in northern Rakhine erupted in August a year ago when fighters of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched simultaneous attacks on government outposts, triggering a fierce counter-offensive by security forces.

Speaking to the press at the end of a four-day visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh, Council members highlighted the need to establish conditions within Myanmar that allow the "safe, voluntary and dignified return" of refugees as well as accountability for the human rights violations that prompted the exodus.

State television showed the ambassadors touring the border area.

"We are not asking Myanmar government something new".

The UN and worldwide community accused the Myanmar military, locally known as the Tatmadaw, of perpetrating massive human rights abuses against the Muslim minority in northern Rakhine.

From Sittwe, capital of the Rakhine state, the team flew by helicopter to visit two villages, one transit center and one reception camp, where refugees who return will initially be housed, he said.

Maansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi, Kuwait's permanent representative at the United Nations and a member of the delegation, expressed confidence that the agreement would be signed, adding that the United Nations wants Myanmar and Bangladesh to speed up the repatriation process.

Representatives from the five permanent Security Council members - China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States - and 10 non-permanent member states have joined the delegation, which arrived in the coastal town of Cox's Bazar, where the camps are located.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed an agreement for the voluntary return of refugees who are eligible for repatriation pending verification.

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Pierce said council members had raised the need for an independent inquiry during separate meetings with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Nay Pyi Taw on Sunday. Thousands are believed to have died.

The U.N. and rights groups have asked Myanmar to guarantee the safety and basic rights of the Rohingya, who are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and subject to systematic discrimination.

"Basically the message that we conveyed was that it was very important to improve the security conditions of the return of the refugees", he said, recalling the visit. "We also mentioned the importance of the investigations regarding what happened there before the refugees went to Bangladesh". "In particular, the engagement of United Nations agencies in Rakhine [state] will strengthen the government's ability to ensure that refugees can return safely, without fear", she was quoted as saying in the report.

The UNSC delegation has also asked the Myanmar government to sign the memorandum with UN agencies in regards repatriation.

Pierce said the delegation wanted to help the Myanmar government with implementing the recommendations on Rakhine state issued by an earlier panel chaired by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, as well as support the signing of the MoUs.

"Severe restrictions on their freedom of movement persist, grossly restricting their access to health care, education and livelihoods", he said.

While the UNSC visit represents a slight thawing in relations between the global body and Myanmar, the brief tour will have limited time and access to assess the situation. "They got to know about what really happened in Rakhine state, and because they have seen and know the truth, we think their attitude will change at least a little".

He also pointed out that numerous Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, already living in poor and crowded conditions, face further misery with the early onset on the monsoon season, with a strong risk of landslides and flooding.

It is up to worldwide community now to hold Myanmar accountable for their actions. The team said in March that it found evidence of human rights violations against the Kachin, Shan and Rohingya minorities "in all likelihood amounting to crimes under global law".

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