UN Rights Rapporteur Visits Mandalay

By Zarni Mann 23 July 2014

MANDALAY — Yanghee Lee, the new UN rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, visited Mandalay on Tuesday to speak with government officials and community leaders about the recent outbreak of anti-Muslim violence in the country’s second biggest city.

Mandalay-based lawyer Thein Than Oo said she met with members of the Mandalay Peace Keeping Committee, which comprises Buddhist and Muslim community leaders, and officials.

Thein Than Oo, who is on the committee to provide legal counsel, said he could not disclose the details of the discussions, but added, “Mrs. Yanhee Lee’s visit to Mandalay is satisfying as she said that the UN will work with us in the future in maintaining peace in our region.”

He said the rapporteur had also met with Mandalay Division government officials and visited the Muslim section of Kyar Ni Kan Cemetery, located outside of the city, where some buildings were destroyed by an angry Buddhist crowd earlier this month.

In early July, clashes erupted between Buddhists and Muslim residents of Mandalay after allegations were circulated on social media that a Muslim tea shop owner had raped his Buddhist maid. In the ensuing violence, one Buddhist man and a Muslim man were killed, while 14 people were injured.

After several days, authorities installed a curfew and arrested more than a dozen suspects. This Monday, some three weeks after the violence, the government announced that rape the claims were false. At the time of the unrest, however, officials said they were detaining two Muslim men in relation with the allegations.

Yanghee Lee has travelled on to the Burmese capital Naypyidaw. Prior to her visit to Mandalay, she visited war-torn Kachin State and Arakan State, where she spoke with Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim leaders. She has also met with political prisoners in Rangoon’s Insein Prison.

She is set to wrap up her 10-day visit on Saturday. South Korea’s Yanghee Lee is making her first visit to Burma as a rapporteur and succeeds Argentina’s Tomás Ojea Quintana.