Statement by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on the situation in Myanmar

08.09.2017 - Press release

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel issued the following statement today (8 September) on the situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar:

I am very concerned about the most recent outbreak of fighting in Rakhine State in Myanmar which was triggered by attacks on military and police posts and has prompted another large wave of people to flee to Bangladesh.

I call upon all sides to work towards de‑escalation and protect the civilian population.

The priority must now be to alleviate the suffering of the people affected. The Myanmar Government therefore needs to allow aid agencies and humanitarian organisations unrestricted access to the affected areas. I welcome the fact that the Myanmar Government, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have agreed that the ICRC will be responsible for ensuring the provision of humanitarian assistance in the next two weeks. Over the past few days we actively lobbied the Myanmar Government on this issue.

The high number of refugees, well over 200,000 according to the information we have, is putting great pressure on the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. We expressly welcome the generosity shown by Bangladesh in taking in and providing care for the refugees. Germany, too, is involved in humanitarian assistance for those affected in Bangladesh through the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

The renewed crisis in Rakhine shows how important it is to improve the situation in the state in the long term. To this end, the Federal Government supports the recently published recommendations by the Rakhine Advisory Commission headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which provide a good starting point.

I appeal to Aung San Suu Kyi and the Government of Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission immediately and thoroughly. Germany and the EU are willing to support Myanmar in this endeavour.

Background information:

According to Myanmar Government reports, there were attacks on police and army posts in northern Rakhine in the morning of 25 August, for which the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army has claimed responsibility. Since then, the violence has escalated. On 27 August, the offices of all international (aid) organisations in northern Rakhine were closed and their staff evacuated with the assistance of the Myanmar army. Independent observers were not permitted to enter the area of operations. Only on 6 September did the Myanmar Government allow access to a group of 21 journalists.

The country is seeing another wave of civilians fleeing their homes. The number of refugees registered in Bangladesh is now well over 160,000.

Armed conflicts previously broke out in Rakhine as recently as October 2016, in the course of which the Myanmar army was accused of massive human rights violations. The UN Human Rights Council has decided to set up an international commission of inquiry into the incidents, but the Myanmar Government has refused to cooperate.

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