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Rapporteur ‘disappointed’ UN rights panel divided on Myanmar

Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, delivers her report, during the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, March 13, 2017. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP) (Associated Press)

A U.N. expert on Myanmar says she’s “disappointed” at the lack of “appetite” at the Human Rights Council to back her call for the creation of Commission of Inquiry into alleged crimes against the Rohingya minority.

Special rapporteur Yanghee Lee, speaking to The Associated Press after addressing the 47-member council in Geneva on Monday, said she’s hearing of a difference of opinion “within even the European Union” about the best path forward in dealing with rights abuses in Myanmar.

“I am afraid that I have been a little bit disappointed because I don’t think there is an appetite or a push for a Commission of Inquiry from the normal sponsors of the resolution” and by countries that are the “normal players” in calls for such investigative bodies, Lee said.

She said a domestic investigative panel focusing on Rakhine state was “flawed” and another led by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan didn’t have an all-encompassing mandate.

Lee has been denied access to parts of Myanmar that she hoped to visit, and expressed concern about violence affecting civilians in Kachin and Shan states.

Based in part on her 12-day trip to Myanmar in January, a 25-page report issued by her office this month cited “continued and escalating violence” in those and other states, and said Lee had been told ‘the situation is currently worse than at any point in the past few years.”

Myanmar’s military, under international pressure over alleged abuses against members of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority, has said official investigations failed to substantiate most accusations.

Lee said she’s been “hearing of the discovery of mass graves and things of that nature,” and appealed to the Myanmar government to let investigators like her “leave no stones unturned”

“If these allegations are indeed exaggerated allegations, everyone needs to know,” she told the AP. “If these allegations are true, I think Myanmar needs to know because this will be the obstacle to them fully reforming and transforming into a fully democratic society.”

The estimated 1 million Rohingya in Buddhist-majority Myanmar face official and social discrimination, and are mostly seen as immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh living illegally in the country. Many fled their homes during communal violence in 2012, and over 100,000 live in refugee camps.


(c) 2017 The Associated Press

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