Yanghee Lee (C), the UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, visits the Balu Khali Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar on Feb 21, 2017. (Photo: STR/AFP)
The Myanmar government has hit out at UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee's latest comments on people who have fled Rakhine state, saying it disagrees with her statements and finds them "unfortunate".
Responding to Channel NewsAsia's queries, Myanmar Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Aye Aye Soe said Ms Lee appeared to be defending the rights of only one group of people and to appease this group in the community, without referring to the Rohingyas.
Ms Aye Aye Soe said this shows Ms Lee's "bias" as she was not speaking for both Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim communities affected by the Oct 9 attacks in Maungdaw, Rakhine.
After making a four-day visit to Bangladesh camps housing Rohingyas, Ms Yanghee Lee said what she heard during her interactions with the Rohingyas "was worse than I had anticipated. The magnitude of violence that these families witnessed and experienced was far more extensive than I had originally speculated."
Ms Lee recounted a number of experiences told to her by Rohingyas who fled Myanmar, such as one of a mother who assumed her son had been brought out of a burning house, only to realise he was still inside.
Another account told of how a woman lost sight in both eyes because of a fire allegedly caused by security personnel. "There was not a single account I heard which was not harrowing," said Ms Lee.
Ms Aye Aye Soe said the UN Special Rapporteur appeared to have a "twisted" interpretation of the situation in Rakhine, making it sound worse than it is.
The attacks against three border posts in northern Rakhine state in October led to a lockdown and security operations in Maungdaw which lasted about four months.
According to the UN, the operations forced over 70,000 Rohingyas to flee, leaving over 20,000 newly displaced Rohingyas still within the Maungdaw district. The incident also led to a number of allegations of atrocities such as summary killings, rape and destruction of Rohingya properties.
The UN Special Rapporteur also pointed out that the Oct 9 attacks appeared to have given the security forces "the perfect cover to amplify and accelerate actions they had previously carried out through policies, rules and laws - with the apparent objective of expelling the Rohingya population from Myanmar altogether."
Based on Ms Lee's latest comments, the UN envoy's report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Mar 13, "will not be fair", said Ms Aye Aye Soe.
The Myanmar government-appointed 13-member Rakhine Investigation Commission, led by Vice President Myint Swe, hopes to visit Bangladesh next week, said Ms Aye Aye Soe. The commission members are "willing to investigate" and hope to get a "wider picture" by speaking with the Rohingyas who have fled Rakhine after the Oct 9 attacks.
She pointed out that the commission wants to get the "truth" and will study the degree of the violations committed if there are any. She added that the government will take necessary actions if violations are determined to have taken place.
(c) 2017 Channel News Asia