Concerns at situation in Arakan and elsewhere
Burma Times Desk Report: January 17, 2015
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee concluded her second visit to the country on Friday evening. At the end of the 10 day visit, she expressed concerns on the human rights situation of the country while maintaining that the government has been pressing hard for reforms.
Like her predecessor, Lee faces the difficult challenge of monitoring the human rights situation while maintaining good relationship with the regime which commits these abuses.
In an apparent reference to attacks on Muslims, Lee mentioned that inter communal violence is a significant barrier to peace and prosperity in the country. She said that even in an era where a new national identity is emerging, the attack on minorities through rumours and hate speech is deeply disturbing.
Lee said that Rakhine community leaders had voiced their fears regarding the Muslim population in the region. She also met with Rohingyas at IDP camps and said that the views of both the parties should be taken into consideration while working out a permanent peaceful solution in the region.
The UN envoy thanked the authorities for letting MSF resume their work in Arakan. MSF is the only lifeline to the approximately million Rohingyas in the region who are denied healthcare by the authorities. Lee however expressed concern that the humanitarian situation was alarming. She also criticised attacks on UN staff and urged the authorities to let them work without fear of arrest and harassment.
Mentioning the citizenship granted to Rohingyas, they said that this had brought any benefit to them and their lives remain as miserable as before. The despair in the eyes of the refugees at the Myebon IDP camp is heart breaking, she said.
She also said that the situation was much more complicated than the Rohingya/ Bengali debate as Kaman Muslims and former Buddhists married to Muslims were similarly confined to the IDP camps.
She urged an end to the segregation of the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Arakan. Currently the Muslim population is blockaded in their villages and IDP camps.
She also said that there has been misreporting considering the UN general assembly resolution which calls for recognition and equal treatment of the Rohingya population.
Lee’s visit has been met with protests by anti-Muslim groups.
Though the government does not recognise the term ‘Rohingya’, Lee said she had always used the word Rohingya in her communication with Burmese authorities.
During the visit, Lee also met with a wide section of activists, government officials, community leaders and victims.
She expressed optimism that the peace process with many ethnic armies will work out for the better.
Lee also went to the Northern Shan state where fresh violence has broken out and inter communal violence took place last year.
The increase in the number of arrests of activists protesting against land confiscation and environmental issues was also a cause for concern, Lee said.
The UN envoy will detail her findings in a report to the Human Rights Council in March.