SEOUL – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, repeated UN allegations on Thursday that the killings of minorities by the Myanmar army amount to genocide.
Lee held a press briefing at the end of a mission during which she visited with representatives of different minority groups from Myanmar who are in exile in Thailand, and in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Lee said during the briefing from her Seoul base that the killings of ethnic Rohingyas in Rakhine State were “part of the hallmarks of a genocide.”
The special rapporteur rued the continuous erosion of democratic space, accusing the government led by the National League for Democracy of employing practices from the time of the military regime, and considered that the international community should step up pressure on those committing these atrocities.
Lee underlined the plight of these Rohingya refugees – who are not recognized as citizens by Myanmar – that still seek to return home, and have spent years in camps without any guarantee of their human rights being upheld.
She also emphasized the demand of the representatives of these minorities in exile to be accepted as citizens of Myanmar, explaining that these groups are asking for equality and not benevolence.
“Without equality Myanmar will never be free from violence and the country’s tragic deja vu will reverberate for future generations as it has for the past,” she said.
Speaking about her time visiting the refugee camps near Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, Lee said she was shocked looking over “the Kutupalong and Balukahli settlements where nearly 600,000 people live and saw the densely packed tarpaulin and bamboo shelters built by incredibly resilient refugees that stretched beyond the horizon.”
However, she also praised the generosity of the Bangladeshi government in helping the Rohingya and the communities of Cox’s Bazar who “have shown the world the definition of humanity as they continue despite their own hardships to host and exhibit compassion for the Rohingya people.”
Some 688,000 members of the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority have fled Rakhine State since the Myanmar military launched an offensive in response to rebel attacks on government outposts on Aug. 25.
The army last year was accused of committing human rights abuses by NGOs and refugees, while the UN said there were signs of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”