The government of Myanmar has informed UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee that she has been barred from returning to the country and that cooperation will be withdrawn for the duration of her tenure, the UN reported today.
Ms. Lee had been due to visit Myanmar in January to assess the state of human rights countrywide, including reports of abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.
“I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar government,” Ms. 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 special rapporteur said she sincerely hoped Myanmar would revisit the decision.
However, U Zaw Htay, director of the Myanmar President’s Office, said in a text message to the Irrawaddy that Ms. Lee was not impartial nor objective in her work.
“There is no trust on her. Therefore, we informed through Myanmar Permanent Mission in NY and Geneva UNSG Office in NY and OHCHR in Geneva,” U Zaw Htay wrote in his text message.
Ms. Lee had previously been afforded cooperation and access to Myanmar, and had maintained a relationship of mutual respect with the government, according to the UN statement. But the government said it views her end-of-mission statement in July as biased and unfair.
The special rapporteur’s mandate requires two visits to Myanmar a year, in order to report to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. Since taking up the mandate in June 2014, Ms. Lee has visited Myanmar six times.
“It is a shame that Myanmar has decided to take this route,” Ms. Lee said.
The government has repeatedly denied human rights violations are occurring throughout Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine State. “They have said that they have nothing to hide, but their lack of cooperation with my mandate and the fact-finding mission suggests otherwise,” Ms. Lee said in a statement.