End of Mission Statement by Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

End of Mission Statement by Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

Yangon, 20 January 2017


Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening. As you know I have just completed a 12-day visit to Myanmar and have visited parts of Kachin, Rakhine and Mon States as well as Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw. In Kachin, I stayed one night in Myitkyina as I was not allowed to go to Laiza and Hpakant. In Rakhine, I went to Koe Tan Kauk in Rathedaung; Buthidaung prison; and four villages in Maungdaw north. I met with IDPs in Myitkyina , and in Koe Tan Kauk, and Maungdaw, – I also visited Sittwe prison. During this trip, I visited for the first time a hard labour camp, in Mon State. In Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the State Counsellor as well as Government ministers of all the ministries I had asked to meet except for two. One was away and another ministry declined to see me as did the Commander-in-Chief. I also met with the Attorney General, as well as Governmental and Parliamentary Committees.  I will elaborate further on the issues I touch upon in this statement in my report to the Human Rights Council in March. For now, let me share with you my immediate impressions and observations.

There is one word that has hung heavily on my mind during this visit – reprisals. In every one of my visits and in every one of my meetings, I ask the Government of Myanmar to ensure that the people I speak to and even work with, do not suffer reprisals for speaking out on rights issues or expressing their opinions. Yet, distressingly several people I met during this visit would say to me, “I don’t know what will happen to me after our meeting.” In one case, an individual directly told me they thought they would be arrested following our conversation. In another village, where there were more than two communities living separately but side by side, I asked if that person was comfortable talking to me. The response: “I am afraid I will not give the right answer.”

I recall during my preparations before arriving, the news broke of a man having been beheaded – his only crime was apparently to have an opinion and to voice that opinion out loud. In fact, we still do not know the full circumstances leading to that man being beheaded. But the message is clear. Do not express yourself. Do not speak your mind if your opinion or position does not fit or support the narrative and agenda of those who have no qualms in how you live or die. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Reportedly, there are at least four more cases of beheadings.

Knowing that by talking to directly affected community members, I could in fact place them and their family’s lives at risk. Yet even more distressing is that many of those I speak to tell me they are willing to take the risk – they see speaking out as their only hope for change and want desperately for the rest of the world to be aware of the situation that they are in. As such I feel a greater responsibility to listen and give a voice to potential victims of human rights violations.  It is also a stark indicator that, whilst there have been positive developments in Myanmar, there is still a long way to go to achieve a society where individuals are free to share what has happened to them, to speak their mind, and to live peacefully without fear.

I know many of you here want to hear from me about the situation in Rakhine state, and several of these examples are from this state. I will of course get to Rakhine in more detail. However, I want to start, as I started my visit this time, with the extremely worrying situation in Kachin State, as well as in the north of Shan State. The plight of people in this area is too often overlooked, but sadly, here too, people are suffering and the hope generated by the outcome of the 2015 elections is starting to wane. As you know, for the last three visits I have asked to go to Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan without fail. Due to time constraints imposed, I made the decision to limit my visit to Kachin and Rakhine.

I pushed hard to go to Laiza and Hpakant. In the past, I had always asked to go to Laiza but access was never granted. My predecessor in his last country visit had gone to Laiza area as had a high-ranking UN official more recently. Yet I was denied access for the fifth time due to security reasons. I also pushed hard to go to Hpakant. This is a Government-controlled area, but like Laiza, the Government did not confirm or deny access until the last minute. The reasons given for the refusal by the State government did not match those given by the Union Government. Furthermore, later that day, I met local interlocutors who had travelled all the way from Hpakant – a 5-6 hour journey to Myitkyina – to share with me their concerns and fears. The explanation I was given by the Government was that, as a ‘special guest,’ the Government was concerned about my security; and as a special guest, I would be apparently particularly targeted.

It is evident that the situation in Kachin and at the northern borders is deteriorating. Those in Kachin State tell me that the conditions have deteriorated – that the situation is now worse than at any point in the past few years. Whilst I was not able to travel to the areas most severely affected, the situation is now such that even in Myitkyina, the capital of the state and home to over 300,000 people, residents are afraid – and now stay home after dark.

I have heard that in active conflict areas the situation is far worse. I met a family who was displaced from Zai Awng IDP camp after shells fell nearby – they had fled in terror and resorted to digging a hole in the forest to stay in at night for six days whilst they tried to gather the funds needed to escape the area – six days in a hole with four children, the youngest a few months old and another only two. I heard after my visit, that some of those from the Zai Awng camp were displaced for a third time. These people have done nothing wrong, yet they suffer, merely because they live in an area, where others fight. When I raised this case with the State Government, and by state government meaning the military side, the response was again denial – I was told the IDP camp did not exist, as I was told before that in Kutkai there were no IDPs either.

Like I always do during my visits to Myanmar, I made a point of going to several places of detention during this trip; and when I was not allowed access to Laiza and Hpakant, I asked to make a day trip from Yangon to a hard labour camp [officially called a production camp] in Zin Gyaik, Mon State.  And as I always do in places of detention, I asked to meet those who are being held there in addition to making a site visit and observing the conditions of detention.

Some whom I met at the hard labour camp said they were afraid of what would happen to them after speaking to me. And a few described how they had the previous three days “off” from their usual hard labour work to clean their living and sleeping quarters as a “VIP was coming.” While some of the facilities appeared better than other prisons I have visited, major concerns from that visit to the hard labour camp are the use of shackles as a form of additional punishment (including while working in the quarry) as well as the lack of transparency and information shared with the prisoners regarding their selection and transfer from another prison to the hard labour camp. I also have a concern about the lack of an independent complaint system for the prisoners at this hard labour camp but unfortunately this is the case in all prison camps in Myanmar.

Besides the hard labour camp, I also visited Insein prison in Yangon, and Buthidaung and Sittwe prisons in Rakhine State. In these prisons, I met prisoners and detainees who were charged (and convicted) for criticising high-level Government or military officials, for raising human rights issues, for filing court cases against the Government and for not meeting the rules for peaceful assembly in attempts to express their concerns for the Government’s attention. I have received reports that over 40 people are now facing prosecution for defamation under section 66 (d) of the Telecommunications law – many of them merely for speaking their minds. In other meetings, lawyers taking on sensitive cases, reported harassment and even prosecution. I visited a Chin community in Sittwe. This community had raised an issue about limited drainage with their local authority, and in response an adjacent community built a road block at the entrance of the 11 Chin households. For nine months, the main access road for these 11 households was blocked despite complaints brought by the Chin community to the relevant authorities.

In Rakhine State, I asked to meet with some of those who had been arrested and detained for allegedly playing a role, active or supporting, in the armed attacks against the security forces in early October and mid-November. Except for one suspect whose family knew that the detainee had rights and sought a lawyer for him, the other prisoners did not have legal representation. They did not seem informed of the charges, if any, against them apart from being aware that they could be suspected of being associated with the attackers against the Border Guard posts on 9 October. Some had not been in communication with their family for the 2-3 months since they had been arrested. I further noted that their families – were not informed of their arrest or the location of where they were detained causing untold distress for families members. One suspect was certain that his family would think that he was dead and  during my visit to villages in Maungdaw, I met women whose husbands were in their words ‘taken away’ whom they believed would never come back. The prison officials told me that there are more than 450 individuals detained in Buthidaung in relation to the attack – meaning many families unaware and uninformed of this detention fearing that they will never see their loved ones again.

What has been said to me over and over by Government representatives regarding the 9 October attacks is that this was not an inter-communal violence or crisis; that this was a calculated attack against the sovereignty of Myanmar and that the Government rightly launched a security response. The Government described to me how the attacks occurred and I saw the three Border Guard posts concerned. I deplore these attacks carried out in a brutal manner and I convey my deepest condolences to the families of those killed.

Whilst authorities are required to respond to such attacks – the response must be carried out within the parameters of the rule of law and in full compliance with human rights. I saw with my own eyes the structures that were burnt down in Wa Peik, and it is hard for me to believe that these are consequent to actions taken in a hurry or haphazardly. I was told by Government officials – as had been reported – that it was the villagers who had burnt down their own houses. And the reason they would burn down their own houses was because these houses were of poor quality; and by burning down their own houses, they can expect to get international actors to come in and help build them better houses. The authorities offered no evidence for this, and I find this argument quite incredible.

Considering the policy of systematic and institutionalised discrimination against the Rohingya with limited access to education and healthcare services – basic services that the international actors have been ready to supply but blocked from providing, it would be quite far-fetched for them to suddenly think that the authorities would allow international actors to help build them better houses. The alternative argument given by the authorities were that this was part of the Rohingya villagers’ propaganda campaign to put the security services in a bad light. Again, I find it quite incredible that these desperate people are willing to burn down their own houses (where they may have lived for generations) to be without a home, potentially displaced, for five years or more like those in Sittwe, just to give the Government a bad name.

I must remind again that these attacks took place within the context of decades of systematic and institutionalised discrimination against the Rohingya population. Desperate individuals take desperate actions. And while such desperate actions in this case are not justified in any way, I do believe if the affected population had felt that the new Government would start addressing their situation and grievances, then extreme elements would not have easily been able to hijack their cause.

When the allegations of human rights violations consequent to the security operations started surfacing, the Government’s immediate response was to deny them. Even when a scientifically-based analysis of the burning and destruction of houses was presented, the immediate response was dismissal. Perhaps some of the portrayal of the situation may have been sensationalised. In fact at least one media outlet had reported that my access was blocked in Rakhine when this was not entirely true. But for the Government to continue being defensive when allegations of serious human rights violations are persistently reported, that is when the Government appears less and less credible. This perception is then reinforced when a video clip of the Myanmar Police personnel beating men – and children – who were rounded up during the security operations went viral. While the authorities may have swiftly responded in this case by arresting some of those captured in the video it highlights the possibility that such treatment of the local population by the security personnel may not be an isolated incident but rather a more common practice.

Over and over it has been said that trust needs to be built between the two communities in Rakhine State; that they need to learn to live together, as they had done for decades before. But I believe another important relationship that requires trust building is the relationship between the people and the Government, particularly with the security forces in this instance. By conducting a security operations with seemingly little regard for the rights and dignity of the majority population residing in the affected areas, the security forces have further weakened the trust the Muslim population had cautiously put into the new Government. It should not be a surprise, in this context, that many from among the Rohingya population have not welcomed the announcement of the resumption of the citizenship verification exercise and resumption of the issuance of the Identity Card for National Verification subsequent to the expiry of the TRC. The timing of this announcement while security operations are still on-going is concerning. Furthermore there has been no progress on the fundamental issues which have plagued previous attempts at conducting a citizenship verification exercise under the 1982 Citizenship law. It is evident that clear, timely and accessible information needs to be provided and further consultation undertaken. A fundamental problem still remains however when individuals who received citizenship in the last verification exercise are still not able to enjoy their rights as citizens. The situation in Myebon, where those granted citizenship remain subject to limitations, is a case in point.

Data and evidence is important here, and in order to assess, evaluate and respond to those needs, we need technical experts to help provide the most feasible response. We cannot make a broad assumption for example that there is no malnutrition in an area as the government-appointed investigation commission did – simply because the conditions for fishing or farming are favourable there. When there are available relevant data which had been obtained through a rigorous method by experts in their field, then the government should consult such data. We cannot simply dismiss data that it does not accept or fully understand.

Humanitarian actors are mandated to use their expertise to help suffering individuals but are currently being prevented from doing so by the Government. In Kachin and Shan States as well as in the north of Rakhine, humanitarian access is worse now than it was when I last visited, with access shrinking month on month and is allowed is subject to ever increasing bureaucratic hurdles. Access is slowly starting to improve in the North of Rakhine state, but it remains mostly limited to national staff, with international staff stuck in towns unable to do their jobs.

The government’s response to all of these problems seems to currently be to defend, dismiss and deny. And this response is not only counterproductive but is draining away the hope that had been sweeping the country. But I do believe it is not too late to reverse this trend, and during my visit, I also met many people who are doing their best in very difficult situations. I met groups working tirelessly to bring communities together. I was pleased to see many new public servants growing into their roles despite the constraints of an institutional structure that is far from perfect. Several ministry and local officials were keen to discuss the problems they face and were open to considering new ideas. This sense of openness and adaptability needs to be nurtured and spread.

It pains me to see when talking to the ordinary people of Myanmar during this visit their feelings of optimism and hope slowly fading just after one year when the whole country was elated with the outcome of the last general elections. From my meetings and conversations with the State Counsellor and the various officials, I can see their genuine commitment and dedication in improving the lives of all in Myanmar. Somehow this commitment has yet to translate into real actions that are felt on the ground. I encourage the Government to appeal to all communities in the country to be more open and understanding of each other, to respect each other instead of scapegoating others for the sake of advancing their own self-interests. It would be particularly important for the security forces to always act within the parameters of the rule of law and in compliance with human rights. It would be crucial for the Government to combat the apparent climate of impunity that seem to have emboldened certain extreme elements by taking the law into their own hands and meting out their own justice. There must be accountability and justice must be done and seen to be done to reassure the ordinary people that no one is above the law.

I would like for the Government, the military side including, to be open and accepting of the offer of assistance from other international actors, particularly the UN that always stand ready to support the successful democratic transition of Myanmar. I take this opportunity to thank the Government for its invitation and for maintaining cooperation with my mandate. I particularly would like to note with appreciation the efforts made to ensure my safety and that of my team. I would also like to thank the United Nations Country Team for their support and assistance.

As I have repeatedly said in the past, I stand ready to assist in the journey towards a more free and democratic Myanmar.

Source by: http://yangon.sites.unicnetwork.org

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

UN rights official hits out at Myanmar over Rohingya crisis

UN rights official hits out at Myanmar over Rohingya crisis

YANGON: The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee said on Friday (Jan 20) the Myanmar’s government denial and dismal of allegations of atrocities against Rohingyas in Rakhine were counter-productive and reduced the authorities’ credibility.

She was speaking at a news conference as she concludes her 12-day visit to Myanmar.

This is Ms Yanghee Lee’s fifth visit to the country and her first since the Oct 9 border attacks in Maungdaw, Rakhine.

The attacks has resulted in a security lockdown of the area, causing over 60,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.

Not surprisingly, the Rakhine, Rohingya situation was the main subject of interest at the news conference which took place in that room much earlier.

Ms Yanghee Lee confirmed that over 450 people related to the Oct 9 attacks were being detained in Rakhine.

However, she highlighted that most of them did not know why they were there, what charges they face, having no legal representation and no communication with their families. All these are clear violations of human rights.

Ms Lee however acknowledged that some allegations of atrocities against the Rohingyas may be sensationalised, but the government’s response so far to all of these is certainly not helpful.

“I was told by the government officials that it was the villagers who had burnt down their own houses. That this was part of the Rohingya villagers’ propaganda campaign to put the security services in a bad light.

“Again, I find it quite incredible that these desperate people are willing to burn down their own houses where they may have lived for generations, to be without a home?

“Potentially displaced for five or more years like those in Sittwe just to give the government a bad name? … for the government to continue being defensive when allegations of serious human rights violations have persistently been reported, that is when the government appears less and less credible.

“The government’s response to all of these problems seem to currently be to defend, dismiss and deny. And this response is not only counterproductive but it’s draining away the hope that has been sweeping the country.”

During her visit, Ms Lee observed that the climate of fear among citizens in speaking to hear is still very real.
Humanitarian access in many conflict areas such as in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan is worse now and continuing to shrink.

She was asked if these are signs of a potential backslide in Myanmar’s reform and democratisation process?

“There is a commitment in this new government, That’s for sure. However, there are three legs that are holding that commitment. The military appointed defence, border and home affairs.  They are the same people there. They are the ones that are still using the same tactics.

“If you look at the kind of events that are taking place throughout Myanmar, not just in Rakhine state, I think I’m concerned and you should be concerned, everyone should be concerned. The civilian side of the government is trying to push back the backsliding. But the three legs are still there which is an uphill battle.”

Ms Lee will present her findings and a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March.

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Indonesia proposes four actions for Rakhine

Indonesia proposes four actions for Rakhine

Sabtu, 21 Januari 2017 03:04 WIB | 1.254 Views
Indonesia proposes four actions for Rakhine

Minister Retno LP Marsudi. (ANTARA/Suwandy)
Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi proposed four actions to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to improve the situation in Rakhine, Myanmar.

According to a press release to Antara on Friday the suggestions were delivered by the minister at the Extraordinary Ministerial Conference of the OIC in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 19. Its aims to address the current plight of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

The first action of offering humanitarian aid and security advice, which can prevent the situation in Rakhine State from deteriorating further, can be done within the OIC according to Marsudi.

The second action is to work closely with the Myanmar government, while the third action involves cooperation with regional organizations such as ASEAN to prevent political issues from hindering all forms of assistance to Rakhine state.

Marsudi submitted a report from the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Retreat in Rangoon, which was held on December 19 last year, to highlight the desire for cooperation between OIC and ASEAN.

The Indonesian government also suggested that OIC member countries should work with Myanmar to assist with its economic development, with the possibility of assistance from the Islamic Development Bank. This is the fourth action proposed by Marsudi.

He repeated Indonesias readiness to work with all sides to find sustainable solutions to assist the Muslim communities in Rakhine State.

“The OIC can only contribute in improving the situation in Rakhine State by taking constructive and inclusive steps,” he said.

Following the meeting of the OIC, the foreign ministers from its member states agreed to pass two resolutions.

The first is a report on the situation of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, whos representatives have requested for humanitarian assistance from the OIC and have asked the Myanmar government to allow access for aid.

The second is a final communique that requires OIC representatives in New York, Geneva and Brussels to periodically conduct a review on current developments in Myanmar.

The ministers also endorsed the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Palestine and Al Quds Al Sharif.

Finally, all OIC members are expected to support the outcome of the Middle East Peace Conference that was held in Paris on January 15, which called for a two-state solution in the conflict between Palestine and Israel.

 Source by: http://www.antaranews.com
By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

BHRN Praises the OIC for Meeting on Northern Rakhine State and Calls for Further Action

BHRN Praises the OIC for Meeting on Northern Rakhine State and Calls for Further Action

BHRN Praises the OIC for Meeting on Northern Rakhine State and Calls for Further Action 
21st January 2017: London, The United Kingdom
The Burma Human Rights Network welcomes efforts by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Government of Malaysia and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who are holding an emergency meeting of the OIC Foreign Ministers to address the dire situation within Burma’s Northern Rakhine State. We have taken great hope from the efforts the Prime Minister has made over the past few months and wish to convey our belief that his efforts, along with those of other ASEAN nations, have truly helped reduce the suffering of the Rohingya as pressure seems to have slowed the indiscriminate attacks of the Burmese Security Forces against the Rohingya population in Burma’s Northern Rakhine State.
The situation in the north of Myanmar’s Rakhine State has rapidly deteriorated since October. A violent and disproportionate crackdown has been unleashed on the civilian population in response to attacks on three Border Guard Police posts on October 9th and a few small skirmishes in the months that followed. Since the attacks on the police posts our organization has collected evidence of what we believe should be investigated as Crimes Against Humanity, as defined by the United Nations, carried out by Burmese Security Forces. These crimes, according to witnesses, have included rape, gang rape, sexual humiliation, murder, extra-judicial assassination, destruction of civilian property, forced displacement, torture, killing of suspects in custody and the intentional destruction of civilian food and livestock. It is clearly long past time for the world to act.
“The OIC should support the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry into the totality of the situation in Rakhine State, including violence and human rights violations since 2012. We would like to urge the OIC to work with other countries to ensure that as long as human rights violations continue, the UN General Assembly Resolution on Burma will once again be tabled every year,” said BHRN Executive Director, Kyaw Win.
We believe an impartial inquiry must be conducted from within the international community. We ask that the OIC and its member states offer their official support to the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into the events that have taken place in Northern Rakhine State since October 9th, 2016. We ask also that the OIC use its influence to help ensure that this Commission will be included in the next resolution on Burma at the Human Rights Council.
While Aung San Suu Kyi established the Rakhine Advisory Commission chaired by Kofi Anan, its mandate focuses largely on poverty, assurance of basic rights and the promotion of ‘trust, harmony and reconciliation.” The existing commission does not have the mandate required by the situation in Northern Rakhine State to investigate what many believe may amount to Crimes Against Humanity by the Burmese Security Forces. Such a commission should assess the totality of the human rights violations against both Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine State since 2012, the Identity of the perpetrators, who the instigators of violence were, and a thorough assessment of which laws discriminate against the Rohingya.
Going forward it is difficult to see a peaceful resolution in Rakhine State but we believe an impartial independent investigation has the greatest chance of uncovering the truth, absolving the innocent, addressing grievances of marginalized communities and creating equitable conditions for those living in Rakhine State to move towards a more peaceful future. It is our hope that the OIC can wield its great power and influence to help initiate this process and help bring about transparency, equity and hope for those who’ve too long lived with none.
Notes for Editors
Background on Current Situation:
On the 19th of January, 2017, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation held an emergency meeting to address the situation in Northern Rakhine State as reports of human rights abuses by Burmese Security forces continued to emerge and tens of thousands of Rohingya now displaced, homeless and without food or aid.
Background on the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) works for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in Burma. BHRN has played a crucial role advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.
Media Enquiries
Members of The Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) are available for comment and interview.
Please contact:
Kyaw Win
Executive Director of the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
T: +44(0) 740 345 2378

Source by: http://www.rohingyablogger.com

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

2467 Rohingya Refugees in Rathedaung Feared May Starve And Have Had No Health Care For Years

2467 Rohingya Refugees in Rathedaung Feared May Starve And Have Had No Health Care For Years

RB News
January 21, 2017
Rathedaung, Arakan – Rohingya IDPs (internally displaced people) living in two camps in Rathedaung Township of Arakan State are at risk of starvation and have not had access to healthcare for years. The refugees are suffering inadequate clothing for the cold season as well.
187 families from Koe Tan Kauk village and 255 families from Chain Khali village in Rathedaung Township have been living in IDP camps since June of 2012.
In both camps the total number of IDPs is 2,467 people who have not received any rations from the World Food Programme since November of last year. Moreover, the local authorities ordered those inside the camps not work beyond the boundaries of the camp. Now the IDPs are facing a food shortage and have no ability to earn any income at all, according to IDPs in the camp.
Additionally, the IDPs are lacking clothing warm enough for the cold season and the people in the camps are developing colds, coughing and there are reports of complications for individuals with blood pressure problems.
Since June of 2012 the IDPs received healthcare a total of 5 times that was provided by an NGO called MHAA in 2015. The NGO visited the camp once a month for five months. Since then no other healthcare has been provided and those living in the camps are unable to seek treatment outside the camp due to the restrictions of movement.
The IDPs said they believed the government was intentionally keeping them without rations and access to healthcare so they will die from starvation so the security forces won’t need to use bullets to kill them. Whether their suspicions are correct is impossible to confirm, but without proper access to aid and healthcare the effects may ultimately be the same and motives will be irrelevant.
While facing these difficulties the authorities conducted a population count two months ago. Since January 18th, 2017 the camp leader, Abdul Rokim, has been collecting 1000 Kyat from each family as a fee for photographing them during the authorities population count.
Chain Khali IDP Camp in Rathedaung

Source by: http://www.rohingyablogger.com

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Myanmar faces barrage of criticism over Rohingya crisis

Myanmar faces barrage of criticism over Rohingya crisis

Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya. — AFP


YANGON: Myanmar’s leadership was fending off a barrage of criticism on Friday over the Rohingya crisis, which a UN rights official said was destroying hope for the country’s first elected government in a generation.

More than 66,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape a military crackdown in the north of Rakhine state, bringing accounts of rape, arson and mass killings at the hands of security forces.

The bloodshed has tarnished the image of the young government of Aung San Suu Kyi, which took power in March riding a wave of optimism after winning the first free elections in a generation.

Hopes the Nobel laureate would usher in a more open era after half a century of military rule have faded as the government has dismissed accounts of abuses as lies and “fake news”.

On Friday, the UN’s rights official for Myanmar warned the government’s denials were destroying faith in Suu Kyi’s fledgling administration.

“The government’s response to all of these problems seems to currently be to defend, dismiss and deny,” UN special rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee told reporters after a tour of the country, including a visit to Rakhine. “This response is not only counterproductive but is draining away the hope that had been sweeping the country.”

The crackdown started three months ago after deadly raids on police border posts which Myanmar said were carried out by foreign-trained Rohingya militants backed by Middle Eastern money.

Lee condemned the attacks, but blamed the government for driving some to militancy. “If the affected population had felt that the new government would start addressing their situation and grievances then extreme elements would not have easily been able to hijack their cause,” she said.

Myanmar has long faced international criticism for its treatment of the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and live in conditions rights groups have compared to apartheid.

Most among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority call them Bengalis – shorthand for illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh – even though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

The recent crackdown has galvanised anger in the Muslim world and particularly nearby Malaysia, whose Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has accused Suu Kyi of allowing “genocide” on her watch.

On Thursday he used an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to call for an end to the “unspeakable cruelty” being unleashed against the Rohingya.

His comments drew an angry response from Myanmar, who said he was hijacking the situation in Rakhine to further his own political agenda.

Najib “is using Myanmar for his own political interests, against the principles of ASEAN,” deputy director of Myanmar’s foreign ministry, Aye Aye Soe, told AFP, citing the Southeast Asian bloc.

“They criticise us without hesitation based on news reports from different places, including news from unreliable sources, without discussing the issue like a good neighbour. We are deeply sorry about this.” — AFP

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized