Conflict, rights abuses threaten Myanmar reforms: UN

Special rapporteur expresses concern over conflicts with ethnic rebels, situation of Rohingya, media reforms, next year’s election

Conflict, rights abuses threaten Myanmar reforms: UN

World Bulletin/News Desk

Major reforms in Myanmar over the last three years are at risk of being undermined by civil conflict and ongoing human rights abuses, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on human rights said in her first General Assembly address.

Yanghee Lee said President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government has improved the political, economic and social human rights landscape since taking over from the ruling military junta in 2011, but stressed that “more is required” to “win the support of the people of Myanmar,” according to a U.N. statement released Thursday.

She said that various conflicts with ethnic rebels are still causing “significant suffering” to an estimated 613,000 people displaced in the fighting.

She added that the situation in western Rakhine state following interreligious rioting in 2012 “remains profoundly disturbing”.

An estimated 140,000 people - mostly from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority - have been segregated in squalid camps on the outskirts of Sittwe, the state capital, after their homes were destroyed in the riots.

Several thousand Buddhists still live in camps closer to the town center, where conditions are less severe.

“Conditions in both Buddhist camps and Rohingya Muslim camps require urgent attention,” said Lee.

In March, aid agency workers were temporarily forced to flee Sittwe after hundreds of Buddhist Rakhine nationalists attacked their homes and offices.

The evacuation deepened an already severe health crisis in the Rohingya camps, prompting international outrage.  

Lee also criticized recent backsliding on media reforms, and said “laws are still being used to criminalize and impede the activities of civil society and the media.”

Earlier this month, three reporters and the two owners of their newspaper, the Bi Mon Te journal, were sentenced to two years each in prison after publishing an article that mistakenly claimed opposition parties had formed an interim government.

And in July, four journalists and the CEO of the Unity Journal were given ten years hard labor for a report alleging the government had built a chemical weapons factory on 3,000 acres of land stolen from farmers in central Magwe Region.

On next year’s general election, Lee warned of potential government “bias” during campaigning and called for an end to “restrictive rules”.

In April, Election Commissioner Tin Aye said politicians would only be allowed to campaign in their own constituencies, a move that was regarded as an attempt to stifle opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, are very popular in Myanmar. In a 2012 by-election, Suu Kyi attracted large crowds as she toured the country to garner support for the party.   

“As we move towards the 2015 election, I urge greater commitment to ensure that the right to vote and the freedoms of expression, assembly and association are fully protected,” Lee said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Ekim 2014, 15:10

Muhammed Öylek

YORUM EKLE