Rakhine MPs refuse to meet UN envoy

Ms Yanghee Lee meeting Myanmar National Human Rights Commission chairman Win Mra in Yangon yesterday.
Ms Yanghee Lee meeting Myanmar National Human Rights Commission chairman Win Mra in Yangon yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Special rapporteur had been expected to hold talks over alleged abuse of Rohingya

NAYPYITAW • The ruling party in Myanmar's Rakhine state government yesterday said it refused to meet a United Nations (UN) envoy who is probing allegations of horrific abuse of Rohingya Muslims by security forces in the region.

Ms Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, had been expected to hold talks with members of the Arakan National Party (ANP) in the state capital Sittwe, before travelling north to an area under military lockdown today.

She has faced threats and been branded a "whore" by Buddhist hardliners on her previous visits, for her criticism of Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya, a stateless group that has suffered years of poverty and repression.

The group has been targeted by security forces during a three-month crackdown in northern Rakhine that the UN said has seen at least 65,000 Rohingya flee across the border to Bangladesh.

"We have no plans to meet them," ANP vice-president Khine Pyi Soe said of Ms Lee's arrival. "I don't think that meeting with them is very important."

Ms Lee's spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Parts of northern Rakhine have been under military control since October, with the army launching "clearance operations" to find Rohingya insurgents allegedly behind deadly raids on police border posts.

The crisis has drawn a storm of international criticism of the elected government of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, which took power in March.

Ms Lee has slammed the lockdown as "unacceptable" and called for an international investigation into claims that troops have raped, murdered and tortured civilians from the Muslim minority.

Ahead of her trip, she said violence in Rakhine had contributed to "disquiet regarding the direction that the new government is taking in its first year".

Muslim-majority Malaysia has also lashed out at Nobel Peace laureate Ms Suu Kyi for not stopping the violence, and will host foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for talks on the crisis next week.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, has urged Myanmar's government to end the violence and take back thousands of refugees.

"Bangladesh has demanded the quick restoration of a normal situation in Rakhine state so that Myanmar nationals... can quickly go back home," its Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali said after meeting Myanmar's special envoy in Dhaka earlier this week.

Myanmar's foreign ministry said the two countries had "agreed to commence consultations for verification and repatriation" of those who had fled the lockdown.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2017, with the headline 'Rakhine MPs refuse to meet UN envoy'. Print Edition | Subscribe