UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who met with senior officials on Wednesday, called for the government to improve conditions for the marginalized group who reside predominantly in Rakhine State or risk reforms stalling.
“I encourage the leaders of Myanmar to uphold human rights, take a strong stance against incitement and ensure humanitarian access to Rohingya living in vulnerable conditions,” Mr Ban said.
Progress on these fronts, Mr Ban said, “will keep the transition on track”.
The UN head was speaking at the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Nay Pyi Taw. He is scheduled to meet with President U Thein Sein and National League for Democracy chair Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on November 13.
Mr Ban also said that a controversial citizenship verification process, aimed at giving eligible Rohingya living in Rakhine citizenship, was carried out in line with national laws but should be brought in line with international standards.
The pilot citizenship verification, part of a larger Rakhine State Action Plan drafted by the government, was launched in June in Myebon Township. The government said in September around 40 individuals were granted some citizenship rights through the process, but only if they agreed to be identified as Bengali.
The government does not recognize the term Rohingya. It instead refers to the group as Bengali and considers them illegal citizens from Bangladesh. Under the draft Rakhine State Action plan, those who refuse to accept the government’s terms will be moved to camps, after which the government would resettle them. The plan has been sharply criticized by human rights groups and members of the international community.
The UN has been met with backlash from Nay Pyi Taw over its continued use of the name Rohingya.
Following a July statement by the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, the President’s Office issued a statement that cautioned Ms Lee to pay “serious consideration to [using] the term” if a “long-term solution” to problems in Rakhine are to be achieved.
“We do not accept the term ‘Rohingya’ which has never existed in the country’s history,” the statement from the President’s Office said.
“The term has been maliciously used by a group of people with a wider political agenda. The people of Myanmar will never recognize the term.”
Mr Ban’s comments come as members of the UN’s Third Committee, which handles humanitarian issues, are discussing adopting a new resolution against Myanmar.
The resolution was tabled by the European Union on October 31. If adopted it would mark 22 consecutive years that the country has been subject to a country specific resolution, despite vocal protests from Myanmar officials, including President U Thein Sein.
A draft of the EU resolution obtained by Mizzima calls for the government to allow Rohingya to self identify and for the government to “allow freedom of movement and equal access to full citizenship,” for the group.
Voting on the resolution is likely to take place next week. The Third Committee is scheduled to close by November 26.