Myanmar parliament moves to denounce UN human rights rapporteur

Yanghee Lee, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, speaks during a press conference in Yangon on July 21, 2017. AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU

A member of Myanmar’s Lower House of parliament has submitted an urgent proposal to denounce the findings of Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar. The proposal was approved for further discussion by Lower House Speaker Win Myint.

Ms. Lee concluded a 12-day visit to Yangon and Naypyidaw, as well as Shan, Kayin, and Rakhine states, on July 21. In her findings, she listed a catalogue of concerns based on reports of killings, torture, the use of human shields by security forces, deaths in custody, and humanitarian crises affecting the Rohingya and other minority communities.

The special rapporteur also accused the Myanmar government of limiting her access to areas with ongoing human rights abuses, including Hsipaw, Shan State, where three journalists are imprisoned.

She also accused Myanmar’s current government of employing the same tactics of oppression and silencing dissent as the military junta that previously ruled Myanmar.

Responding to these accusations, MP Thandar from Einme Township, Ayeyawady Region, said the special rapporteur’s findings ignored the Myanmar government’s efforts to promote national reconciliation and to cooperate with the UN.

She also accused Ms. Lee of ignoring the facts on the ground in Rakhine State.

“[Ms. Lee’s] statement was not based on fact,” MP Thandar said. “Yanghee Lee paid no attention to terrorist attacks on civilians in Rakhine State. There is growing concern among the public about the attacks, which could make Myanmar into a stronghold for the terrorists.”

She also accused Ms. Lee of neglecting to mention tunnels, guns, and training camps discovered by Myanmar authorities in the Mayu Mountains.

“The report the special rapporteur plans to submit to the UN General Assembly in October will be unfair. It will lead to bad decisions. That’s why I submitted the proposal,” the MP said.

MP Thandar’s proposal was supported by several other lawmakers, including members of the NLD, USDP, the Arakan National Party, and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.

NLD MP Kyaw Soe Linn from Pyi Gyi Tagun Township, Mandalay Region, said Ms. Lee ignored Myanmar’s appointment of Kofi Annan, a former secretary general of the UN, as the chairman of Rakhine State Advisory Commission.

“[This appointment] is a noteworthy sign that the government cares about human rights affairs in the country,” Kyaw Soe Linn said.

He also said the special rapporteur’s statement largely ignored the government’s challenges, including dealing with years of isolation, underdevelopment, and internal conflict.

Lower House Speaker Win Myint approved the proposal for further discussion and invited MPs to sign up to participate.

On July 21, the Office of the State Counsellor issued a similar response to Ms. Lee’s findings, saying: “We are disappointed with the Special Rapporteur’s end of mission statement. We had hoped that the Special Rapporteur’s statement would reflect the difficulties of resolving the problems that are the legacy of decades of internal conflict, isolation, and underdevelopment. The Special Rapporteur’s statement instead contains many sweeping allegations and a number of factual errors.”

The State Counsellor’s Office statement has largely been lauded by social media users in Myanmar, many of whom accuse Ms. Lee and the UN of conspiring to destroy or colonize Myanmar: 

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