Human rights abuses in Myanmar under UN scanner

Jan 7, 2017

United Nations

A United Nations independent human rights expert will be examining the human rights abuses in Myanmar from next week, according to an announcement issued following growing concern over the civilians in Kachine state and the proliferation of violent acts in Rakhine state.

Yanghee Lee, the special rapporteur of the United Nations on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that the events of the last few months had shown that the international community must remain vigilant in monitoring the human rights situation in that country.

The agenda for Lee’s visit to Myanmar, which will last for 12 days and follows an invitation extended by the Myanmar Government, will include meetings with political and community leaders, the civil society, and also victims of human rights violations as well as members of the international community.

The forthcoming visit, commencing Jan 9, will be Lee’s fifth visit to Myanmar. She plans to visit Myitkyina, Hpakant and Laiza in Kachin State, where civilians are caught in fighting between the Myanmar army and an armed group.

“The escalation in fighting in Kachin and Shan, with its inevitable negative impact on the situation of civilians, is causing some disquiet regarding the direction that the new Government is taking in its first year of administration,” Lee said.

Some of the places she plans to visit for gathering information are Sittwe, Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw in Rakhine State, as well as Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon.

Last month, the top UN human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, had said in a statement, that he was deeply disappointed by a lack of access to some of the worst areas in northern Rakhine, particularly given numerous alarming allegations of rights violations, including killings, rapes and the burning of homes belonging to the Rohingya minority group.

A report from the visit will be presented in March to the UN Human Rights Council, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system.

Lee’s position is honorary and she does not receive a salary for her work.

The top United Nations human rights official had warned that the Myanmar Government’s “short-sighted, counterproductive, even callous” approach to the handling of the crisis could have grave long-term repercussions for the country and the region.

“The repeated dismissal of the claims of serious human rights violations as fabrications, coupled with the failure to allow our independent monitors access to the worst affected areas in northern Rakhine, is highly insulting to the victims and an abdication of the Government’s obligations under international human rights law,” Zeid had said.

“If the authorities have nothing to hide, then why is there such reluctance to grant us access? Given the continued failure to grant us access, we can only fear the worst,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had added.

Noting that the country’s handling of the crisis in northern Rakhine “is a lesson in how to make a bad situation worse,” Zeid called on the authorities to reflect on the best approach towards a durable resolution to the long-standing grievances of different communities in northern Rakhine.-Bernama