Myanmar protesters gather ahead of UN rights visit

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside an airport in restive western Myanmar on Thursday in protest against a planned human rights visit by a United Nations envoy, police said.

Update: 13:33, 08 January 2015 Thursday
World Bulletin / News Desk

Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, arrived in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, which has seen deadly spates of sectarian violence between majority Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in recent years.

Lee`s visit comes days after the UN adopted a resolution urging Myanmar to grant citizenship to the minority group, viewed by the state as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants with restrictions placed on their movement, marriages and economic opportunities.

“About 1,000 residents have been gathering since this morning to protest against the UN Special Rapporteur,” a police officer in Sittwe told AFP, withholding his name.

“We will give full security to her when she arrives,” he added.

During her tour to Rakhine State, she will assess the conditions in the IDP camps and hold talks with chief minister on the Rakhine State action plan. She will also evaluate the freedom of association, media, land disputes and protests resulted from the projects.

According to the UN’s press release, the UN will hold talks with civil society organizations (CSOs) to ensure a transparent, free and fair general election in 2015.

The UN has previously described the Rohingya as one of the world`s most persecuted minorities.

Thousands of Rohingya have fled Rakhine since clashes erupted between them and Buddhists in 2012, leaving about 200 people dead and up to 140,000, mostly Rohingya, displaced.

The exodus has seen most head for mainly Muslim Malaysia in treacherous journeys by sea, with many falling into the hands of unscrupulous people-traffickers.

Lee arrived in Myanmar on Tuesday for a 10-day visit to the former junta-ruled country to gather first-hand information on the current human rights situation in Rakhine as well as northern Kachin state.

Recently a resolution was passed at the U.N. General Assembly committee dealing with human rights which welcomed positive steps in political and economic reform in Myanmar but reiterated serious concerns about violence and other discrimination against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

It urged the government to speed up efforts to address abuses against all ethnic and religious minorities and called for the release of remaining political prisoners.  The United Nations resolution urged Myanmar to grant citizenship to its Rohingya Muslim minority, ramping up pressure on Yangon to scrap a controversial identity plan.