Burma Times Desk Report: January 13, 2015
Yanghee Lee’s visit to the IDP camps of Akyab is met by resolute young faces demonstrating out of mankind’s most ancient instinct – – the right for survival. On record, they want the right to vote in the upcoming elections, but in reality the child demonstrators hope that Lee will deliver them out of the ordeal they are currently facing. These children hardly know anything about the United Nations, or the landmark resolution passed by the General Assembly. Nor do they really know much about the 2015 election and what it means for the country. All they know is that the life they live in this country is not the life of a human being. And somewhere, the little people have come to know, that this woman can play a big part in ending their nightmare.
For the first time, there is a different sort of procession welcoming the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma. Ever since Lee landed in the Sittwe (Akyab) airport, she has been received with messages of hatred. Influential sections of the dominant Rakhine population in the Arakan say that Lee and the UN are biased in favour of the Muslims.
In this country, where Rohingyas can hardly breathe without raising eyebrows, literally speaking, demonstrating for the UN envoy is a luxury they cannot afford. So the demonstrations taking place around Yangee Lee have been made up of Rakhines, who shout out their chilly messages promising doomsday for all the Muslims, in this state and the country. So this was a different demonstration, one that holds out promises of life rather than death.
Following the riots of 2012, Akyab, where Rakhines only held a slim majority over their Muslim counterparts, the state capital is currently Rohingya free. Except in the brutal IDP camps where the Rohingyas are housed like caged animals, guarded by the security forces. Much has been said about the IDP camps. International media and rights activist have described them as open air prisons. It is a very accurate assessment of the situation.
So it is the irony of modern day Burma that the first message of love comes from these open air prisons. Yanghee Lee will probably remember these little faces with a measure of positivism as she attempts to work her way in an otherwise hostile country.