U.N. rights envoy expresses disappointment on Myanmar visit

A visiting U.N. human rights investigator in Myanmar expressed disappointment Friday that the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi is continuing some of the repressive practices used by the previous military-backed government. Speaking at a press briefing in the country's largest city Yangon at the end of her sixth mission to assess the security situation in the country, Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said individuals who meet with her continue to face intimidation, including being photographed, questioned before and after meetings, and being followed. "I have to say I am disappointed to see the tactics applied by the previous government still being used," Lee said. "This is unacceptable." Lee arrived in Yangon on July 9 for a 12-day mission in which she visited conflict-prone areas including Rakhine State, and met with government officials including Suu Kyi in the capital, Naypyitaw. Lee's latest visit came amid reports of increasing security concerns in Rakhine, where there has been reported persecution and abuse by authorities against the minority Muslim Rohingya population. Her trip was also in the wake of reports that the Myanmar government plans to bar members of a U.N. fact-finding mission from entering the country to investigate accusations of human rights abuses against the Rohingya minority in Rakhine. Regarding the situation, Lee said conditions for the Rohingya have hardly improved since her last visit to the country in January, and have become even more complicated in the north of Rakhine. Lee said that she continues to receive reports of security forces allegedly committing violations during their operations, but also acknowledged that unknown assailants are targeting Rohingya Muslims who apply to be verified as citizens or who collaborate with the authorities. The situation is "leaving many Rohingya civilians terrified, and often caught between violence on both sides," she said. Since 2012, Rakhine has been the focus of communal violence between the state's majority Buddhist population and its stateless Muslims who call themselves Rohingya and inhabit mostly the northern part of the state. The latest round of violence began last year on Oct. 9, when armed assailants, presumed to be Rohingya, attacked border police stations and outposts, killing nine officers and seizing weapons and ammunition. The military responded with "clearance operations," raiding villages to search for the culprits, arresting hundreds, and causing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. More than a hundred people, including 17 security officers, have been killed since the Oct. 9 attacks. Lee also visited ethnic Shan State and Kayin State, meeting civil groups and individuals to assess the situation of minorities there, but said she was not allowed to go to any of the places she sought to visit in those states apart from their capital cities. "I was particularly dismayed to learn that the situation in northern Shan is deteriorating," Lee said, referring to the suffering of civilians due to escalating armed clashes between the military and ethnic rebel groups. Lee will present a report to the U.N. General Assembly in October with greater elaboration about her visit.

17 hours ago | KYODO NEWS