Buddhists in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on Wednesday staged a protest against the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar who arrived on a fact-finding trip over alleged abuses by security forces against the Muslim Rohingya minority. Less than 100 protesters from the state's ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community shouted and held signs as UN envoy Yanghee Lee passed in her car in Sittwe, the state capital, calling her unfair and unwanted.
"We are strongly against the U.N.'s rights envoy visit as her reports never reflect the views of ethnic Rakhines and she is biased on the side of the Bengalis, so people are protesting," said Soe Naing from the Rakhine social network using the term “Bengali” to describe Muslim Rohingya. It is Lee's sixth visit to Myanmar to assess the human rights situation in Rakhine, Shan and Karen states. She will also visit Yangon and Naypyidaw.
Lee has criticized the government's treatment of the Rohingya minority, who face severe discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. They were the targets of intercommunal violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 predominantly Rohingya people from their homes to displacement camps, where most remain.
Last October, the army launched counterinsurgency operations in Rohingya areas after assailants presumed to be Rohingya attacked police outposts along the border with Bangladesh, killing nine officers and seizing weapons and ammunition. U.N. human rights investigators and independent rights organizations charge that soldiers and police killed and raped civilians and burned down more than 1,000 homes during the operations.
Lee is on a 12-day visit to Myanmar at the invitation of the government during which she is to discuss human rights issues with political and community leaders and civil society representatives.
Than Tun, a leader of the Rakhine Buddhist community said that after every visit to Rakhine, Lee has never reported any good thing about either Rakhine people or the Myanmar government. "What Rakhine people think about Yanghee Lee is that she is too one-sided," he said. The U.N. rights envoy will wrap up her visit on July 21 and will submit a report to the Human Rights Council in October.
Lee has been outspoken in her criticism of the government on previous visits, and recommended the establishment of a special U.N. mission primarily to investigate the problems in Rakhine. The U.N. Human Rights Council approved the mission by consensus in March and in May appointed a 3-member team to investigate the alleged abuses. In June, however, Myanmar officials announced that the mission would not be allowed into the country, insisting their own efforts to deal with the problem are adequate.