A United Nations (UN) special envoy has arrived in Myanmar to begin an investigation into a brutal and deadly military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the country.
Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, arrived in the country late on Sunday and will visit the northwestern Rakhine State, where the Rohingya are being subjected to executions, rape, and arson attacks since October.
“The events of the last few months have shown that the international community must remain vigilant in monitoring the human rights situation” in Myanmar, Lee had said in an earlier statement.
On her visit, which will last for 12 days, Lee is also scheduled to visit the embattled state of Kachin, where the military has been fighting autonomy-seeking ethnic rebels in an area near the border with China for decades. The battle has forced more than 100,000 people out of their homes.
Presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said the government would provide her with security to visit the conflict-ridden areas.
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 military began its crackdown in Rakhine after an attack on the country’s border guards on October 9 left nine police officers dead. The government blamed the Rohingya for the assault.
There are reports that at least 400 people have been killed, more than 2,500 houses, mosques, and religious schools destroyed, and three villages completely wiped out during the military siege.
The Myanmarese government has blocked humanitarian and media access to Rakhine.
Myanmar’s government denies full citizenship to the 1.1 million-strong Rohingya population and instead brands them as “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh, even as many trace their lineage in Myanmar back generations.
At least 30,000 Rohingya have been internally displaced in Rakhine, while thousands of others have tried to reach Bangladesh to seek refuge amongst the Rohingya refugee population that already lives there.
Bangladesh has started to crack down on the incoming refugees by either preventing them at border transit points or confining them to refugee camps.