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UN expert: Asean must pressurize Myanmar to stop rights violations

  • Published at 03:03 pm July 18th, 2019
Myanmar-Rohingya issue
File photo: Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, March 7, 2019 Reuters

‘When states in this region engage with Myanmar, human rights should firmly be on the agenda’

Human rights violations in Myanmar are creating increasingly serious issues for South, and SouthEast Asia, United Nations Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee said on the human rights situation in Myanmar.

She called for stronger action by regional countries, especially Asean, to address potential peace, and security concerns.

Lee, who continues to be denied access into Myanmar, made her observations on Thursday after concluding her 11-day visit to Thailand, and Malaysia.

Special Rapporteur Lee cited the nearly 1.5 million refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, trafficking and smuggling of people from Myanmar, and the drug trade within, and outside the region as examples of deepening concerns.

“It is incumbent on Myanmar’s neighbours to acknowledge these most serious issues, and that they have been created by Myanmar. The continuing gross violations of human rights in Myanmar jeopardize the lives of people around that country, and relentlessly impact Myanmar’s neighbours in such a way that could threaten South, and SouthEast Asian peace, and security,” she said in a press release.

She also urged regional states to take a stronger position, saying, “When states in this region engage with Myanmar, human rights should firmly be on the agenda. I therefore most strongly urge Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to prioritize human rights in Myanmar, and to hold the Government of Myanmar to its obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights.”

During her visit, Lee received reports that the conflict between the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military), and the rebel Arakan Army (AA) rages on, and that human rights violations, and abuses against the civilian population are worsening. The total number displaced by the conflict since January could now be as high as 55,000 across Chin, and Rakhine States.

“The situation is urgent, and deserves more attention from the international community,” she said.

The Myanmar government’s almost month-long mobile internet shutdown in nine townships in northern Rakhine, and southern Chin was unprecedented, and unacceptable, Lee said.

“It is now monsoon season in Myanmar, and there have been terrible floods in three townships in Rakhine State. There is no access to mobile internet in any of those townships, meaning that people were not adequately prepared for, or warned of the floods that occurred. This has resulted in displacement, and houses being destroyed,” she said.

Lee said it is incumbent on the international community to bring about criminal justice in Myanmar. She also said that victims need to receive reparations for the harm caused to them, and they have a right to know the truth about what happened to them, their family members, and their communities. Solid guarantees that violations that have occurred in the past, and continue to occur now, will not happen again in the future are also essential.

“The first step for this to happen is for the government, and the military to reverse its stance of denial, and to recognize what the people of Myanmar have suffered at their hands. The countries in this region, and Asean, have a large role to play in persuading Myanmar to bring about this fundamental shift,” she said. 

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