UN slams continued discrimination against Myanmar’s Muslims

SHAFAQNA – The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, called upon the international community Friday not to forget about ongoing human rights challenges in the South-East nation, especially the increasing unrest and discrimination against Muslim communities.

In a briefing to the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, which handles social and humanitarian affairs as well as human rights issues, she also pointed out continued detention of political prisoners and the constitutional guarantee of 25 per cent of seats in Parliament to the military.

At the same time, Ms.
Lee praised recent progress but urged stakeholders to remember that much remains to be done.
“The international community has a responsibility to continue to encourage the changes needed to ensure that everyone in Myanmar can access their fundamental human rights – regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status or location,” the Rapporteur said.

Civilians and children continue to suffer amid the escalating conflict in Shan, Kachin and Kayin states, and humanitarian access to these locations is more difficult than it has been in recent years.
Meanwhile, in Rakhine state, the continued discrimination against the Rohingya and other Muslim communities has affected peoples’ fundamental rights.
She pressed for the removal of all discriminatory orders, policies, and practices, she said.

The expert expressed alarm over other developments in Rakhine state, including the murder of nine police officers on Oct.
The resulting security operations led to multiple allegations of serious human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment during interrogations, summary executions, arbitrary arrest and the destruction of mosques and houses in Muslim villages.


Some 3,000 people from the Rakhine community and up to 12,000 Muslims have fled their homes.

“I am also extremely concerned that humanitarian programmes providing health, food, education, and nutrition assistance have been suspended and access by humanitarian and other groups has not be granted,” Ms.
Lee remarked.

She welcomed the release of 200 prisoners by the new government, but expressed concern for the remaining 200 still in detention.
Both Ms.
Lee and her predecessors have advocated for legal reform, but many people continue to be arrested under outdated laws, even under the new Government.

She also pointed to Myanmar’s constitution, for which 25 per cent of seats in Parliament and three key ministerial posts are reserved for the military: “Until there is constitutional reform, there is still much to be done for Myanmar to evolve from having a military government to a civilian one,” she said.

“Peace will be a pre-requisite for the long-term progress of Myanmar,” she added, referring to the talks between the Government and armed groups at the Panglong Conference which was held in August of this year.
“Unfortunately, on the ground, peace still feels remote and communities still fear attacks, abductions, and abuses.”

Reuters adds: The US State Department said on Friday that it had voiced concern to Myanmar’s foreign ministry about the reported rape of Rohingya Muslim women by soldiers during a recent upsurge in violence against the persecuted minority.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a briefing that the United States wanted Myanmar to investigate the reported rapes and hold those responsible accountable.

Toner said earlier that the United States had raised the issue with the Myanmar foreign minister, but the State Department later issued a transcript of the briefing saying it had brought the issue up with “the foreign ministry,” not the foreign minister.

Eight Rohingya women, all from U Shey Kya village in Rakhine State, described how soldiers last week raided their homes, looted property and raped them at gun point.

Reuters interviewed three of the women in person and five by telephone, and spoke with human rights groups and community leaders.
Not all the claims could be independently verified, including a total number of women assaulted.

Zaw Htay, a spokesman for Myanmar President Htin Kyaw, denied the allegations.
The military did not respond to an emailed request for comment about the accusations.

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