Myanmar’s UN Ambassador Rejects Damning Rohingya Rights Report

By Nan Lwin 24 October 2019

YANGON – Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations has rejected the recommendations of the UN special rapporteur and the UN fact-finding mission about human rights violations.

Ambassador U Hau Do Suan accused Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee of making several comments that lacked objectivity and disregarded the sentiments of Myanmar’s people.

The ambassador said her comments caused misunderstanding, and generated mistrust and further polarization among diverse communities.

On Tuesday he responded to the presentation of the fact-finding mission, reports of the special rapporteur and other recommendations to the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural committee at the UN General Assembly.

Lee and the head of the fact-finding mission, Marzuki Darusman, made presentations on human rights in Myanmar.

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape military operations that the UN has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Myanmar’s military denies the allegations, insisting the crackdown was a response to coordinated attacks on security posts in Rakhine State by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

In July 2018 Myanmar formed the Independent Commission of Enquiry for Rakhine to investigate allegations of human rights violations. The body includes the former Japanese ambassador to the UN Kenzo Oshima and Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo.

Lee said the government committee “does not represent a possible end to this impunity”.

U Hau Do Suan asked for praise for the government’s efforts to create a democratic transition and to promote development and human rights.

He called on UN appointees to adhere to the principles of independence, impartiality and professional integrity.

U Hau Do Suan alleged double standards, selectivity and the politicization of human rights.

Darusman warned of “a serious risk of genocide recurring” against the estimated 600,000 Rohingya Muslims still in the country.

He said discrimination, segregation, restricted movement, insecurity and a lack of access to land, jobs, education and health care continued among the Rohingya in Rakhine State.

Darusman reported last month that Myanmar should be held responsible internationally for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.

The fact-finding mission said it had transferred 1,227 interviews with victims and witnesses of crimes against the Rohingya to a specially established UN body, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.

More than 150 people had been listed on suspicion of involvement in numerous crimes, Darusman said.

The Indonesian diplomat said the mission found crimes under international law, and serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, had been committed in northern Myanmar and during the ongoing conflict with the Arakan Army in Rakhine State.

The mission called on member states to back the independent monitoring of its recommendations, including financial and political disengagement from Myanmar’s military, to help deter human rights violations.

U Hau Do Suan said Myanmar did not recognize the fact-finding mission’s report, saying it was “one-sided” in its narrative and facts.

He said Myanmar also rejected the establishment of the Independent Investigative Mechanism on Myanmar, saying it was a form of discrimination.

It was set up beyond the mandate of the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, he alleged.

Last week, Myanmar also rejected the decision by the International Criminal Court to exercise jurisdiction over human rights violations in Rakhine State.

The ambassador said the mission had failed to condemn the “well-documented” atrocities committed by ARSA that allegedly resulted in the death of security personnel and “hundreds” of innocent people in Rakhine State, including around 100 Hindu villagers in 2017.

He also said the reports ignored the attacks by ARSA on security posts in October 2016 and August 2017.

In Tokyo this week, Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi described the 2017 crackdown against the Rohingya as a response to a “terrorist attack”.

She said she was disappointed the international community paid so little attention to the “terrorist threat” in Rakhine State. However, she also said her government understood the international community’s concerns over human rights.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a repatriation agreement in November 2017, but implementation has failed repeatedly and each side blames the other for the delay.

Citing resistance to repatriation from the Rohingya, who fear for their safety, rights groups have also warned that without legal protection, such as citizenship, Rohingya refugees will continue to face persecution in Myanmar.

Recently, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China agreed to establish a tripartite working group to evaluate the Rohingya repatriation.

U Hau Do Suan said Myanmar was disappointed and disheartened because the country’s goodwill and spirit of cooperation with the UN human rights bodies over nearly three decades had only brought increased international scrutiny with numerous targeted resolutions.

He said there has been a growing sentiment in Myanmar of unfair treatment by the international community over Rakhine State.