Foreign Ministry Rejects Mandate of UN Rights Envoy

By The Irrawaddy 13 August 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs lashed out on Thursday against “a wide range of allegations” made by UN rights rapporteur Yanghee Lee.

In a press release published by state media, the ministry said that it “rejects country-specific mandates including that of the Special Rapporteur.”

Lee, who was appointed last year, wrapped up her third visit to Burma last week with sharp criticism of the government’s reluctance to facilitate meetings and site visits, controversially denying her access to Arakan State where more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims remain in squalid displacement camps.

While the ministry’s statement said Lee “could not visit a state which was declared as one of the severely flooded States compounded by weather conditions,” the rapporteur stated last week that her request to travel was denied “well before” she arrived in the country.

Despite restricted access, which Lee said “hampers” her mandate, the ministry encouraged her to “enrich her sources of information,” claiming that her mission statement “contained a wide range of allegations and speculations rather than truth and fact.”

The ministry maintained that the government rejects use of the term Rohingya to refer to some 1.1 million stateless Muslims residing in Arakan State. The minority, which bore the brunt of communal riots in 2012, has been referred to as one of the most persecuted peoples on earth.

Rights envoys have routinely attracted the ire of both government officials and members of the community. The convoy of her predecessor, Tomás Ojea Quintana, came under attack by a mob in central Burma’s Meiktila in 2013, and Lee was met with protests upon her last visit in January of this year.

Shortly after Lee’s January mission, nationalist monk Wirathu famously referred to the rights expert as a “bitch” and a “whore”.

In February, the foreign ministry issued a statement similar to Thursday’s, accusing Lee of “interfering in state sovereignty.” The rapporteur responded that the criticism was “hard to comprehend.”
Lee’s full report on the situation of human rights in Burma will be submitted to the UN General Assembly in October.