Myanmar bans UN official as military finds mass grave in Rakhine

December 20, 2017 | By | Reply More

Myanmar has banned a United Nations official investigating the ongoing crackdown in Rakhine State from the country, after claiming a previous report by her was biased and unfair, the UN said Wednesday.

myanmar-bans-un-officialYanghee Lee, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, was informed Wednesday all access to the country has been denied and cooperation withdrawn for the duration of her tenure, the UN said in a statement.

“I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar Government,” Lee said. “This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.”

The ban came a day after Myanmar state media reported that a mass grave with 10 bodies inside had been found at Inn Din, north of Rakhine state capital Sittwe. Photos published by the military showed the grave being exhumed and multiple skeletal remains.

The army said “an investigation would be carried out,” according to the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

More than 650,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed the Bangladeshi border from Rakhine State since renewed violence broke out in late August. Both the UN and the United States say the violence amounts to ethnic cleansing.

The Myanmar government says the bloodshed resulted from a military crackdown on militants who carried out co-ordinated attacks on border posts.

A recent Médecins Sans Frontières report said at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in attacks during the first month of the crackdown in Rakhine. In November, Myanmar’s military said that 376 “ARSA Bengali terrorists” were killed in fighting between August 25 and September 5, referring to the Rohingya insurgent group.

“They don’t want anybody to come in, either because they really are trying to hide something or I’m not sure, because they say one thing, that there’s nothing to hide, but then they deny access,” Lee told.

A Myanmar government spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.

The recent arrest of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar has added weight to suggestions from human rights agencies that the government has something to hide.

Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested last week after meeting with police in Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital. According to the news agency, the two had been investigating the ongoing crackdown in western Rakhine state.

The reporters were charged under the Official Secrets Act, a colonial-era law which carries a maximum 14-year jail sentence. Police officers who they were meeting were also arrested.

Since their arrest, the two journalists have been held in an undisclosed location and both their employer and families have been denied access to them.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch accused the Myanmar authorities of attempting to “disappear” the two journalists. Asia director Brad Adams said their detentions “appear aimed at stopping independent reporting of the ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya.”

“Their secret, incommunicado detention lays bare government efforts to silence media reporting on critical issues,” he said.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay said the pair were “in Yangon, if you want to know where they are you can ask the police.” Attempts to reach the Yangon police were unsuccessful.

Press journalist for HRO media – Ignacio Damigo reports.

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Category: International

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