Yanghee Lee speaks to the media during her visit to Myanmar on July 21. Aung Khant/The Myanmar Times

Ei Ei Toe Lwin 21 Dec 2017


Myanmar has blocked UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee access to the country, ahead of her visit next month, the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner said in a statement on Wednesday

The government has also withdrawn cooperation with the special rapporteur for the duration of her tenure, it added.

Lee was due to visit Myanmar in January to assess the state of human rights situation nationwide, including accusations of human rights abuses against the Muslim residents in troubled Rakhine State, according to the statement.

“I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar government,” said Lee. “This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.”

The special rapporteur said she sincerely hoped the Myanmar would reconsider its decision.

“Only two weeks ago, Myanmar’s permanent representative informed the Human Rights Council of its continuing cooperation with the UN, referencing the relationship with my role as special rapporteur,” she said.

“Now I am being told that this decision to no longer cooperate with me is based on the statement I made after I visited the country in July,” Lee said.

Responding sharply to the statement, President Office’s spokesman U Zaw Htay said the government is not likely to change its stand as it has lost trust in Lee.

“She is not impartial and objective while conducting her work. There is no trust on her,” he told The Myanmar Times through a text message.  “Therefore we informed through Myanmar Permanent Mission in NY (New York) and Geneva UNSG (United Nations Secretary General) Office in NY (New York) and OCHR in Geneva.”

Lee had previously been afforded cooperation and access to Myanmar, and had maintained a relationship of mutual respect with the government.

“It is a shame that Myanmar has decided to take this route,” said Lee.

“The government has repeatedly denied violations of human rights are occurring throughout Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine State. They have said that they have nothing to hide, but their lack of cooperation with my mandate and the fact-finding mission suggests otherwise,” said added.

Lee criticised the government’s restrictions imposed on her 12-day trip to Myanmar in July as well as the government’s inaction on alleged abuses in conflict areas.

“I have to say I am disappointed to see the tactics applied by the previous government still being used’’ she said during a press conference on July 21 in Yangon at the conclusion of her visit.

The Ministry of the Office of the State Counsellor described Lee’s statements as mere sweeping allegations that contained a number of factual errors.

The office lamented the failure of the UN special rapporteur to reflect in her statement the difficulties of resolving the problems in the country that are a legacy of decades of internal conflict, isolation and underdevelopment.

The special rapporteur’s mandate requires two visits to Myanmar a year in order to report to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. Since taking up the mandate in June 2014, she has visited the country six times.

While the government had responded positively to past requests to visit, access to some areas had been consistently refused, with the authorities citing security concerns.

The government is also not cooperating with the Human Rights Council Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, established in March 2017.

Relations between the Myanmar government and the UN have become tenuous since the escalation of violence in northern Rakhine on August 25, after attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on more than two dozen government security outposts in the state and massive retaliation by the military.

The subsequent clashes between government forces and ARSA fighters, whom the government has labelled as terrorists, have forced over 650,000 Muslim people in Rakhine to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Most people in Myanmar describe the Muslims in Rakhine as interlopers from Bangladesh and not one of the country’s ethnic groups, despite their having lived in the area for generations.

Sources  : https://www.mmtimes.com/news/government-removes-welcome-mat-un-special-rapporteur.html.