THE United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma believes there could be possible reprisals against the people she met on her recent official visit to Rakhine State.
Yanghee Lee arrived in Burma on Jan 8 for a 12-day visit, her fifth visit to the country which is currently under the microscope due to the ongoing conflict between the authorities and the Rohingya. Her visit concluded last Friday.
“I am deeply concerned about those with whom I met and spoke, those critical of the Government, those defending and advocating for the rights of others, and those who expressed their thoughts and opinions which did not conform to the narrative of those in the position of power,” Yanghee Lee said in a statement on Facebook.
Lee revealed that there has been a resumption of security forces’ counter operations in villages in the north of Maungdaw, Rakhine despite a brief lull. Raids were conducted in several villages and there have also been allegations of arbitrary arrests and detention.
According to the Bangkok Post, there have been reports of security forces committing atrocities against the Rohingya as the military conducts operations in the area following the attacks on border guard outposts in October last year that left nine police officers dead.
The Special Rapporteur was only allowed to visit Myitkyina and not other areas in Kachin State due to security reasons.
“Whilst I was not able to travel to the areas most severely affected, the situation is now such that even in Myitkyina, the capital of the state and home to over 300,000 people, residents are afraid – and now stay home after dark,” she said.
Last Friday, Lee criticized the Burmese government’s crackdown on the minority. She warned that the Burmese government’s dismissal and denial of allegations by the Rohingya in Rakhine of the atrocities committed towards them are counter-productive.
She added that the government will also lose its credibility if it continues to defend the ongoing human rights violations.
Lee also suggested that recent footage of police beating Rohingya villagers could be “a more common practice” and not just an isolated incident.
The footage, which spread over social media earlier this month, showed police officers hitting a boy on the head as he walked to a group of villagers who were rounded up during a clearance operation in Kotankauk village in Rakhine in November last year.
Burmese authorities insist action will be taken against the policemen who allegedly assaulted the villagers marking the first time authorities pledged to take action despite dozens of videos in recent months showing alleged abuse.
The Special Rapporteur will present her report to the UN Human Rights Council in March, which will include her observations and recommendations to the Burmese government.
Additional reporting by Reuters