New York: The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee said Myanmar’s government is not working to created conditions for the potential return of more than 750,00 Rohingya refugees to their homes but is instead engaging in a “sustained campaign of violence, intimidation and harassment.”
Speaking on Friday at the end of an 11-day mission to neighboring Thailand and Bangladesh, Ms. Lee said the human rights situation in Myanmar continues to deteriorate, as the civilian government fails to bring about democratic reforms and instead resorts to the kind of repression carried out under previous military regimes.
The UN expert shared testimony from Rohingya refugees she met during her visit to the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, citing a fresh arrival to the camp who said that her father had been stabbed to death by Myanmar security forces. She also cited a refugee who fled with his entire family after his mother and sister were abducted and raped, as well as videos in which she saw houses burning in Muangdaw township, which, according to information gathered by her team, were set alight by Myanmar security forces working in concert with Rakhine extremists.
Under Myanmar’s plan for the return of Rohingya, according to reports in November 2018, Muangdaw was identified as a resettlement area.
Lee also noted that the human rights situation in Myanmar has been further complicated by fighting in several regions of the country, undermining the prospects that some 162,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area will be able to return home. She added that the government plans to close IDP camps and relocate people to remote areas far from their places of origin and removed from economic opportunities and humanitarian support.
She voiced deep concern that IDPs are particularly vulnerable to losing their rights to ancestral homelands, following recent amendments to a law that permits the government to expropriate land, from ethnic areas – including Rakhine, Kachin, Shan and Kayin States where communities have depended on this land for their livelihoods, traditions and culture for generations – at particular risk.