DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Good morning. Thank you, Prime Minister Hasina, for inviting the United States to co-host this important event.
This August marked five years since members of Burma’s military embarked on a horrific campaign of genocide and terror against Rohingya in Burma. In response, the people of Bangladesh generously welcomed more than 740,000 Rohingya refugees–one of the largest mass migrations in recent history.
We hoped our collective efforts would persuade Burma to create the conditions necessary for a voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return for the Rohingya people. But today, violence is again escalating between the Arakan Army and Burma’s military deployed in Rakhine State, in addition to other operations against civilians throughout Burma.
Burma’s military intensified the terror against all its people in a violent coup d’état that has rolled back development achievements, increased volatility across Burma, and further slowed the international response to the Rohingya crisis.
The resolution to the crisis lies where it started – in Burma. But the current military regime continues to arrest Rohingya people – and now other civilians across Burma, including pro-democracy activists – simply for exercising freedom of movement and other basic rights. The regime still denies Rohingya an effective path toward citizenship and refuses to take responsibility for the atrocities it committed against the Rohingya people.
As the Burmese military continues to escalate its campaign of violence, the Rohingya people and the countries generously hosting them need all of us to do more to support the dignity, safety, human rights, and wellbeing of Rohingya refugees.
Today, I am pleased to announce that the United States is providing more than $170 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the Burma and Bangladesh humanitarian crisis. The United States has provided nearly $1.9 billion in humanitarian assistance since 2017 to help those affected by the Rohingya refugee crisis in Burma, Bangladesh, and elsewhere in the region. Of this new funding, nearly $138 million is for programs in Bangladesh.
This assistance will save lives and support the aspirations of Rohingya for themselves and their children. It will provide protection, shelter, nourishment, and health care. It will help prevent destruction from floods and fires and support rebuilding efforts as the region faces additional existential threats from climate change and natural disasters. It will empower the Rohingya people and Bangladeshis to create safer communities with greater support for community patrol groups and village conservation forums. It will also help ease the strain on host communities in overcrowded Cox’s Bazar, where nearly one million refugees reside.
This past May, I had the opportunity to travel to Cox’s Bazar to witness the incredibly difficult conditions refugees are facing and learn more about the critical work that U.S. government partners are doing in both the refugee camps and host communities. Given the protracted nature of the crisis, I discussed with the Government of Bangladesh and our partners how best to transition our collective approach to meet not only the humanitarian, but also the development needs of both refugees and host communities. To do so requires using more effective, efficient, and locally led interventions.
I also visited Bhasan Char, where refugees continue to lack access to viable livelihood opportunities and are limited in their abilities to be with their families, who are now a three-hour boat ride away in Cox’s Bazar.
We urge the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that relocations to the island remain voluntary and that refugees can move freely between the island and Cox’s Bazar; to support equitable provision of assistance, services, and opportunities to refugees in both Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char; and to facilitate the longer-term sustainability of Bhasan Char to house refugees.
Now, it’s my pleasure to turn to my colleague Assistant Secretary Noyes, who will underscore our commitment to exploring durable solutions to this crisis.