UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, is on a tour in Myanmar. Her 10-day visit was reduced to only 5 days because of government non-cooperation. She voiced her concern about voter participation in the coming election. She noted the continuing arrests and convictions of civil society actors including students, political activists, workers, union leaders, farmers, community organisers and journalists, and met with several of these individuals detained in Insein and Tharawaddy prisons. “Many emphasized that they were not against the Government and simply wanted to bring about positive changes in the country,” she said. She urged the Government to reconsider its fear and opposition to critical and independent voices.
“Civil society actors, journalists and ordinary citizens exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association are not threats, but should be seen as partners in contributing to a robust democracy,” Ms. Lee stressed at the end of her five-day official visit to the country.
Of grave concern to the Special Rapporteur was the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of individuals - mostly Rohingya Muslims - who previously held temporary registration cards (white cards) who were allowed to vote in the 2010 elections but lost this right in 2015.
Given the impact of the ongoing conflict on the holding of inclusive and peaceful election, Ms. Lee also drew attention to the “possible disenfranchisement of migrant workers, internally displaced persons and refugees, and those living in conflict-affected areas such as Kachin and northern Shan States.” She called for the full integration of human rights issues and the full participation of women in all stages of the peace process.
The toxic role of Buddhist terrorist monks was not forgotten in her remark. While hailing the efforts of some religious leaders and civil society actors in building a more tolerant and inclusive society, she warned of the “increased influence of religious extremists in this pre-electoral period” and the lack of action taken against them in cases of intimidation or incitement. “The Government must do more to combat hate speech and incitement to violence,” the rights expert said.
Although Ms. Lee met with representatives of the Rakhine State Government, including the Chief Minister, her request to visit Rakhine State was denied. “I cannot shy away from continuing to highlight serious human rights violations in Rakhine State and make principled but constructive recommendations,” Ms. Lee noted. ”More must and can be done to address the legal status of the Rohingya and the institutionalized discrimination faced by this community.”
“One practical step that could go a long way to improve the situation of youth in Rakhine State is to give priority emphasis to improving education opportunities and access to higher education.”
As I have noted many times, Myanmar government is a pariah government, which is beyond repair. It is folly on the part of the UN and its member states to imagine a true change of heart and mind in the government of Myanmar. What Myanmar needs is stick to sober its unruly character. Sooner the world body learns this wisdom sooner the situation will change for better inside Myanmar and the region.