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Prioritise rights, UN envoy urges investors

File photo of Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma. (Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré / UN)

A United Nations human rights expert on Monday urged the international community rushing to forge or strengthen political or economic ties with Burma not to undermine the country’s rights priorities.

“International actors must continue to prioritise human rights, particularly in business and investment relations,” said Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, at the end of a visit to the country from 20 June to 1 July.

These actors should neither remain silent when confronted with human rights concerns nor become complicit in perpetuating human rights abuses, she said.

“Myanmar’s young democracy can only advance if human rights are fully mainstreamed into its institutional, legal and policy framework,” the expert said, referring to Burma by its official name of Myanmar. “Building a culture of respect for human rights must be a priority now and in the future.”

Lee visited Kachin, Arakan and Shan states, recommending that future political dialogues tackle the root causes of conflict and the long-standing grievances of ethnic communities.

Additionally, she called for an end to the institutionalized discrimination against the Muslim communities in Arakan State.

“It is clear that tensions along religious lines remain pervasive across Myanmar society. Incidents of hate speech, incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence, and of religious intolerance continue to be a cause for concern,” Lee said.

The special rapporteur will present her report to the UN General Assembly in October 2016, which will include her observations and recommendations to the government.