Deputy information and presidential spokesperson U Ye Htut has raised concerns regarding links between a top UN human rights official and the Thailand-based NGO Fortify Rights, which has accused the government of crimes against humanity for its persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
U Ye Htut said in a post on his Facebook page on March 6 that UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar Tomás Quintana’s position as an international adviser to Fortify Rights “raises further questions over his non-biased standing”.
“It is not a surprise that all of his [Mr Quintana’s] reports are always reflecting the accusations of such organisations,” U Ye Htut said.
Following the release of Fortify Rights’ latest report on February 25, U Ye Htut said the government “do[es] not remark on baseless accusations from Bengali lobby groups”. The government does not recognise the term Rohingya, instead using the term Bengali.
Fortify Rights executive director Matthew Smith told The Myanmar Times in an email that Mr Quintana joined the advisory board of Fortify Rights in 2013 but “had absolutely no input into our [Fortify Rights] work on Rakhine/Rohingya”.
Mr Quintana has been widely accused of bias in his reporting on the plight of the Rohingya Muslims during his six-year tenure as special rapporteur. The accusations have increased sharply over the past two years as the country has endured a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. Mr Quintana is set to present his final report before his term ends in May to the UN Human Rights Council on March 17.