The United Nations is conducting a probe into a harsh military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar following reports of rapes, killings, and torture against the minority group in the Buddhist-dominated country.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will start a 12-day visit to Rakhine and Kachin states on Monday, the UN said on Friday.
The Rakhine State, in northern Myanmar, where the Rohingya are concentrated, has been under military siege since October last year, forcing tens of thousands of the members of the minority group to flee to neighboring regions in Kachin State or across the border to Bangladesh.
The military crackdown in Rakhine began after a deadly raid on a police post that the government said was carried out by the Rohingya.
Meanwhile, Lee has slammed the military crackdown in Rakhine as “unacceptable” and said it was necessary to investigate reports of troops raping, murdering, and torturing members of the Muslim minority.
“The last few months have shown that the international community must remain vigilant in monitoring the human rights situation there,” Lee said in a statement on Friday.
“Apart from what is happening in Rakhine, the escalation in fighting in Kachin and Shan (states)… is causing some disquiet regarding the direction that the new government is taking in its first year,” she said.
Lee’s criticism of the military’s treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar has seen her face threats and demonstrations on previous visits to the country. A hard-line Buddhist monk has previously called the UN official a “whore in our country” over her criticism of the dire situation of women and minorities there.
The Myanmarese army, which has blockaded Rakhine since October last year, denies the allegations of mistreatment against the Rohingya. A committee set up by the government recently concluded that law was not being violated in the state, an assertion widely derided by international rights organizations.
The government recently detained eight members of the police after a video emerged showing officers beating and kicking unarmed Rohingya villagers. It did little, if anything, to reverse the salvo of criticism faced by the Myanmarese government, which continues to flatly deny mistreating the Rohingya.
Since the crackdown began late last year, the government has been refusing aid agencies and media to visit Rakhine. The government denies full citizenship to the 1.1 million-strong Rohingya population, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh despite the fact that most of the Rohingya have an ancient lineage in Myanmar.