The challenges the government of Myanmar faces in ensuring that the human rights of everyone in the country are respected and protected means overcoming a long history of oppressive military rule. Yet the authorities continue to arrest and prosecute those who criticize the government and the military under the now-infamous section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act. The army and to a lesser extent ethnic armed groups still commit abuses during the fighting in Shan and Kachin States. And nearly 100,000 people remain in displaced persons camps spread across both states where the government restricts access to humanitarian aid.
In Rakhine State, nearly 120,000 primarily Rohingya Muslims remain trapped in abysmal conditions in camps in violation of their human rights. Rohingya in the northern part of the state endured widespread brutality from security forces after militant attacks on police outposts in October. Over 90,000 were displaced by the violence of whom over 70,000 fled to Bangladesh. Human Rights Watch and others documented numerous abuses that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded likely amounted to crimes against humanity.
Local officials’ capitulation to mob demands to shutter two Muslim schools in Yangon is the latest government failure to protect Myanmar’s religious minorities. Muslim communities that have had to resort to praying in the streets during the holy month of Ramadan face arrest and prosecution by local authorities.
In March, this Council took a strong stand against the violations in Rakhine State and elsewhere in Myanmar by adopting a resolution that established an international fact-finding mission into human rights violations by military and security forces and other abuses in the country.
We welcome the recent appointment of the fact-finding mission members, but the Burmese government has shown no willingness to cooperate. If they refuse to grant access to the mission, they will join the ranks of Burundi, Syria, and North Korea, all of which have rejected similar international investigations.
This fact-finding mission represents a crucial opportunity to address the systemic challenges that stand between the Myanmar of today and an open democratic society that so many have long sought to achieve. This opportunity should not be squandered. We urge Myanmar not to isolate itself by refusing access to the mission, and would ask the Special Rapporteur what Council members and observers can do to ensure the mission is granted unfettered access to all areas of concern and allowed to carry out its work freely.