THE HEAD of a United Nations team appointed to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Burma (Myanmar) has expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in restive Rakhine State, including “dehumanising propaganda that akin the Rohingya to pests.”
Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar Marzuki Darusman told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday that the deteriorating situation in the Rakhine – which has seen more than 400,000 Rohingya flee into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh since Aug 25 – further highlighted importance of the FFM.
“There are reports of landmines being planted on the border with Bangladesh that are maiming and killing those trying to escape the violence, including children,” said Marzuki.
“There are also reports of dehumanising propaganda that akin the Rohingya to pests. This Council will recognise the danger signs, having seen the world over how hate speech often precedes and accompanies major atrocities.”
Satellite images from Human Rights Watch show tens of thousands of homes in 214 Rohingya villages have been destroyed. The group says the pictures corroborate accounts of arson, looting and killing by the army and vigilante groups from its interviews with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
Established by the Human Rights Council (HRC) in March, the FFM has thus far been denied access to Burma by the government of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The body’s mandate is to “establish the facts and circumstances of alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces and abuses in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State.”
The FFM is also tasked with investigating claims of abuses and human rights violations in Burma’s Kachin and norther Shan states.
Burma’s foreign ministry has been instructed not to grant visas to UN fact-finding mission members. Marzuki requested on Tuesday that in light of the scale of the crisis the HRC extend the FFM’s mandate until Sep 2018 and provide the resources required to work at “full speed.”
“It is important for us to see with our own eyes the sites of these alleged violations and abuses and to speak directly with the affected people and with the authorities,” he said.
“For that reason, we communicated with the Government of Myanmar, requesting cooperation with us and full and unfettered access to the country. We are hopeful that our request will be met positively, since we know of the Government’s expressed concern for truth.”
In an address to Burma and the international community on Tuesday, State Counsellor Suu Kyi professed that “Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny” and repeatedly invited “friends” who “wish Myanmar well” to visit the country and help its process of democratisation and peacebuilding.
She has previously said, however, that the UN’s decision to establish the independent FFM was not “in keeping with what is actually happening on the ground.”