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MPs approve unanimous rebuke of UN human rights envoy

File photo of the Burmese Lower House of Parliament in Naypyidaw. (Photo: Wikicommons)

Lawmakers in the Lower House on Tuesday put their official stamp of disapproval on the UN special rapporteur’s latest end-of-mission statement, unanimously approving an urgent proposal condemning remarks she made last week that were critical of the government.

The proposal, put forward a day earlier by National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker Daw Thandar, echoed a statement made by the Office of the State Counsellor, which on Friday stated, “We had hoped that the Special Rapporteur’s statement would reflect the difficulties of resolving the problems that are a legacy of decades of internal conflict, isolation and underdevelopment. The Special Rapporteur’s statement instead contains many sweeping allegations and a number of factual errors.”

Yanghee Lee, who last week completed her sixth visit to Burma as UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the country, delivered her end-of-mission statement in Rangoon on Friday. Among other criticisms, she accused the government of using “tactics applied by the previous government,” such as state surveillance, and said the humanitarian situation in some parts of the country had worsened since the NLD government took power last year.

Speaking in support of Daw Thandar’s proposal on Tuesday, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Kyaw Tin told lawmakers the UN envoy’s statement failed to recognise the numerous challenges facing the country as it transitions from decades of military rule.

“It is found that there is no fairness and balance in the statement, but bias,” Kyaw Tin was quoted as saying in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.

Union Solidarity and Development Party lawmaker Maung Myint and military MP Major Kyaw Zin Moe also reportedly offered their support for the resolution, which appeared to take particular umbrage at Lee’s criticism of security forces’ conduct in Arakan State.

A UN report released in February said that conduct could amount to “crimes against humanity” as security forces have undertaken a counter-insurgency campaign targeting suspected Rohingya Muslim militants. Extremists from the largely stateless Muslim minority were blamed for attacks on border police posts that killed nine officers on 9 October.

The lower chamber of Parliament’s resolution this week marked the latest development in an increasingly fraught relationship between the UN and Burma’s government; the UN’s February report helped lead to the establishment of a UN fact-finding mission to probe the allegations contained within, but Burma’s government has said it will deny the team access to the country.

“I would strongly urge the government to change its mind, to allow the mission to come in and collect the facts themselves,” Lee said in her end-of-mission statement.