Myanmar has denied Yanghee Lee access to the country, saying her July end-of-mission statement was biased and unfair. Lee said the lack of cooperation points to "something terribly awful happening in Rakhine."
The Government of Myanmar on Wednesday announced that it would not cooperate with or grant access to a United Nations special rapporteur who was due to assess human rights abuses in the country, including abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
Yanghee Lee, who was expected to visit the country in January, has been denied access to Myanmar for the duration of her tenure.
Lee said the Myanmar Government had repeatedly denied that violations of human rights were 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 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 Myanmar Government cited Lee's end-of-mission statement in July as the reason for not cooperating. It said the statement was biased and unfair.
In the July statement, Lee said "As well as increasing restrictions on my access, individuals who meet with me continue to face intimidation, including being photographed, questioned before and after meetings and in one case even followed. This is unacceptable."
"The general situation for the Rohingya has hardly improved since my last visit in January, and has become further complicated in the north of Rakhine," the statement said. "I continue to receive reports of violations allegedly committed by security forces during operations. There also appear to be incidents of Rohingya being targeted by unknown assailants for applying to be verified as a citizen."
At least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims killed
More than 630,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to escape violence in Rakhine State, and on Thursday last week Doctors Without Borders released a field study that found at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed during a crackdown by Myanmar's security forces between August and September this year.
The number far exceeds the 400 people Myanmar's Ministry of Information said died after a militant Rohingya group attacked police posts on August 25, prompting the crackdown by Myanmar troops.
Myanmar's Ministry of Information said just 400 people died when a militant Rohingya group attacked police posts on August 25, prompting the crackdown by Myanmar troops.
The ministry has blamed Rohingya militants for the violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state and labeled the 400 as "extreme terrorists” who died during military "clearance operations.”
The Special Rapporteur's mandate requires two visits to Myanmar per year, in order to report to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. Lee has visited Myanmar six times since taking up her mandate in June 2014.
The Government is also not cooperating with the Human Rights Council Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, established in March 2017. It has denied visas to people on the team.
"It is a shame that Myanmar has decided to take this route," said Lee.