By John Zaw
Myanmar has refused a U.N. human rights expert entry as she visits Thailand and Bangladesh investigating abuses being committed in the country.
Myanmar has barred Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur to Myanmar, from their country since December 2017. Lee has said she still seeks to engage with the Myanmar government and that she remains committed to her mandate of monitoring the human rights situation in the country.
“I will continue to meet with people from Myanmar and speak out about human rights issues that occur around the country,” Lee said in a statement on Jan. 11.
She visited Thailand on Jan. 14 and will then travel to Bangladesh on Jan. 19 to visit refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar which shelter Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the Myanmar government is acting in a knee-jerk manner by barring Lee rather than talking with her and defending their version of events.
Robertson said this demonstrates Myanmar’s intolerance for narratives that contradict their “fabricated version of events,” especially regarding the human rights situation in Rakhine and Kachin states.
“Yanghee Lee speaks truth to power, has identified real ongoing human rights abuses, and is not going to bend her narrative to appease the Myanmar government’s sensitivities,” Robertson told ucanews.com.
He said the larger question that the government needs to answer is how it can prevent Myanmar politics from “turning full circle to de facto military rule” with Aung San Suu Kyi acting as the Tatmadaw’s “sock puppet” to absorb international criticism.
But Pe Than, a lower house MP for hard-line Buddhist party Arakan National in Rakhine State, said he agrees with the government’s move. Pe Than said that Lee’s reporting is biased and favors the “Bengalis” (Rohingya) and it lacks both independence and impartiality.
“She fails to consider the views and concerns of ethnic peoples in Rakhine and she has exaggerated the Rakhine crisis issue,” said Pe Than, an ethnic Rakhine.
Lee will conclude her Thailand-Bangladesh visit on Jan. 24 and will present her findings and recommendations to the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March.