UN envoy blocked from visiting conflict zones in Myanmar

Yangon

A United Nations human rights envoy has been prevented from traveling to conflict areas in Myanmar’s northern Kachin State due to ongoing fighting between government troops and ethic rebels.
Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said Tuesday that authorities denied her request to visit internally displaced persons camps in government-controlled Hpakant Township and the border town of Laiza where Kachin Independent Army (KIA) headquarters are situated.
“There is no cooperation from regional and union governments regarding my request to visit the places where I want to visit,” she told the VOA (Voice of America) Burmese news service. “We are not allowed to visit the areas where human rights violations and torture are reportedly taking place,” she was quoted as saying.
Lee arrived in Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon on Sunday evening for a 12-day visit amid growing international concern over allegations against the military, including reports of rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine State. She is scheduled to meet the country’s leaders — including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and military chief Sen. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing — in political capital Nay Pyi Taw after the Kachin trip before heading to Rakhine for three days.
Rakhine regional government spokesman Tin Maung Swe said that Lee would arrive in the state capital Sittwe on Friday.
“She will spend all three days visiting villages affected by recent conflicts in Maungdaw district,” he said by phone Tuesday.
He said the regional government will provide security and transportation wherever Lee wants to travel in the area — where anywhere between 84 and 400 Rohingya have died during military operations launched after a gang attacked police outposts Oct. 9, killing nine officers.
“It’s also okay if she wants to talk to people detained on suspicion of being involved in the attacks,” Tin Maung Swe said.
More than 600 people have also been detained for alleged involvement in the attacks and during a subsequent military crackdown.
Rohingya advocacy groups, however, claim around 400 Rohingya — described by the UN as among the most persecuted groups worldwide — were killed in the military operations, women were raped and more than 1,000 Rohingya villages torched.
Since Oct. 9, aid agencies and independent journalists have been denied access to areas predominantly inhabited by the Rohingya Muslim community.
The trip is Lee’s fifth “information-gathering visit” to the country and comes at the invitation of Suu Kyi’s government.—Agencies

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