The Irrawaddy

US Asks UN to Appoint Special Envoy for Myanmar

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at a UN Security Council briefing on the crisis in Rakhine.

YANGON — US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called on the UN secretary-general on Tuesday to appoint a special envoy to investigate what she called the Myanmar military’s “cruel and barbaric” actions in Rakhine State.

Speaking at a UN Security Council briefing on the crisis in Rakhine, Haley said the world was watching and waiting for Myanmar to act and asked the government to allow a UN fact-finding mission and special rapporteur into the country.

“Without the media and UN personnel in Burma to shed light on the crimes being committed, there is no hope for justice for the victims,” she said.

In December the government banned Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, from returning to the country, claiming she was biased in favor of the Rohingya.

Some 690,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since the Myanmar military’s crackdown in Rakhine in response to militant attacks on security outposts there in late August. Refugees and rights groups have accused the military of murder, rape and arson, which the government mostly denies.

“What happened in Burma and is still happening in Burma is not okay. This council must hold the military accountable for their actions and pressure [State Counselor] Aung San Suu Kyi to acknowledge these horrific acts are taking place in her country. No more excuses,” the ambassador said.

“I urge my colleagues to seize this opportunity to end our inaction and live up to our responsibilities as members of this Security Council. I call on all nations to join the United States in doing more than just demanding an end to the atrocities in Burma, but actually taking the steps we know are needed to put this crisis on the path toward solution.”

In Myanmar, the President’s Office has announced that 16 people including seven soldiers will be held accountable for the killing last year of 10 Muslim residents of Inn Din village in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township.

Reporters covering the Rohingya issue have been facing increasing pressure from authorities. Two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were gathering information on the Inn Din massacre, were arrested and detained on Dec. 12 under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

They have been charged under Section 3.1 (c) of the act, which covers entering prohibited places and taking images or obtaining secret official documents that “might be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy.”

PEN America announced today that it would honor the two Reuters reporters with the 2018 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.

Haley said unhindered media access was of vital importance.

“Journalists like the two imprisoned Reuters reporters are an indispensable source of information,” she said.