UN envoy ‘disappoints’ Suu Kyi

Activists and journalists in Myanmar continue to suffer from state surveillance agents like they did under the military-backed government, the UN’s human-rights envoy said. 

The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, (pictured) told a news conference in Yangon at the end of her 12-day visit that she faced “increasing restrictions” on her access and state surveillance.

Lee said the government prevented her visiting three journalists in prison in Shan State who were jailed under a colonial-era law for visiting Ta’ang National Liberation Army territory to inspect a drug-burning ceremony.

The UN envoy said individuals who she interviewed faced intimidation, including being photographed and questioned before and after meetings.

Security officers say monitoring prominent figures is a normal part of their work.

Lee said Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State were attacked by unknown assailants for applying for citizenship.

The Rohingya are denied citizenship and told to register as “Bengalis”, a controversial term suggesting they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The community says it belongs to Myanmar, is descended from Arab traders who arrived hundreds of years ago and citizenship is their birthright.

Muslims were being attacked for working with the state authorities, Lee said, meaning “many Rohingya civilians [are] terrified, and often caught between violence on both sides”.

The government claimed that 34 Rohingya civilians killed and 22 others kidnapped by militants since reported attacks on police outposts on October 9 last year.

Lee said it was “unacceptable” that people meeting her were watched and followed by the military-controlled authorities.

“I have to say I am disappointed to see the tactics applied by the previous government still being used,” she said.

“In the previous times, human rights defenders, journalists and civilians were followed, monitored and surveyed and questioned. That’s still going on,” Lee added.

“I continue to receive reports of violations allegedly committed by security forces during operations,” Lee said.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s office did not directly address Lee’s access or surveillance, but said it was “disappointed” by Lee’s statement, which “contains many sweeping allegations and a number of factual errors”, although these were not detailed.

“We had hoped that the special rapporteur’s statement would reflect the difficulties of resolving the problems that are a legacy of decades of internal conflict, isolation and underdevelopment,” Suu Kyi’s statement said.

The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee. Picture credit: YouTube