Civil Society Groups Highlight Continued Abuses During UN Visit

By San Yamin Aung 18 January 2017

RANGOON— During a meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma Yanghee Lee, civil society groups highlighted the continuation of human rights abuses despite the country’s recent reforms

The rapporteur met with around 20 civil society organizations at the UN office in Rangoon on Tuesday and discussed legislative and constitutional reform; the rights of women, children and ethnic minority groups; the peace process and humanitarian assistance in conflict areas; challenges facing human rights activists; freedom of expression; political prisoners; land issues, and the situation in Arakan State.

Although the country has seen amendments to some outdated and controversial laws since the new government assumed power, there are still laws which restrict freedom of expression. This includes Article 66(d) of the Telecommunication Law, which has yet to be amended, said Equality Myanmar director U Aung Myo Min, who attended the meeting.

Concerning the peace process, and women, children and ethnic minorities’ rights, the groups pointed out weaknesses in filing grievances regarding violence against women and children, and the lack of meaningful participation of women in the peace process, U Aung Myo Min added.

Attendees talked with the UN envoy about the ongoing conflicts in Shan and Kachin states, which left thousands as refugees, and also spoke about two pastors who went missing after helping reporters cover a church bombing in Shan State.

“Though there are some reforms, human rights violations are ongoing, especially in ethnic areas,” said Ma May Sabe Phyu, director of the Gender Equality Network.

“There is a rise in the number of refugees in conflict areas. The aid to IDP camps has been stopped, blocked, and also reduced,” she added.

Lee traveled to conflict-torn northern Shan and Kachin states where she expressed frustration at having her travel restricted by Burmese authorities. She also toured northern Arakan State during her official visit to Burma from Jan 9-20.

She met with Burma’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Vice President U Myint Swe—who also heads the government investigation committee on Arakan State—on Wednesday in Naypyidaw.

Ma May Sabe Phyu said Burma still needs the UN special rapporteur or the international community to continue to monitor the human rights situation and provide support.

The UN will discuss whether to extend the UN special rapporteur on Burma’s duties in March at the UN general assembly.