POST TIME: 19 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 19 January, 2019 01:31:58 AM
UN expert Lee calls for civilian protection in Myanmar
She arrives in Dhaka today
UNB, Dhaka

UN expert Lee calls for civilian 
protection in Myanmar

The UN's human rights expert on Myanmar yesterday expressed alarm at the escalating violence in northern and central Rakhine State and Chin State, and called on all sides to exercise restraints in use of force and ensure the protection of civilians. "Both sides must take precautions and ensure the protection of civilians," said Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

She said this conflict risks exacerbating divisions among communities in an already fractured state, further complicating the complex situation that exists in the country

"The government should prioritise the safety and wellbeing of all the people of Rakhine State and work towards peace around Myanmar," Lee said.

Since November 2018, the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, and Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic armed organisation, have been engaged in heavy fighting, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians, according to a message received here from Geneva.

At least 5,000 people have been displaced from their homes.

Lee condemned an attack by the AA on the four Border Guard Police posts on January 4, 2019, and

expressed concern at the Tatmadaw's disproportionate response to the attack.

On January 10, the Rakhine State government sent a letter to the UN and international humanitarian agencies instructing them all, with the exception of the World Food Program and the International Committee of the Red Cross, to suspend their activities in the five townships in northern Rakhine that are affected by the conflict, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw.

"It's vital that assistance is able to reach those who have fled violence, and the government must immediately reverse its decision not to allow access to all humanitarian organisations," Lee said adding, "I remind the government and the Tatmadaw that blocking humanitarian access is a serious violation of international humanitarian law."

"I'm also seriously concerned about the dangerous rhetoric being used by the government. The ethnic Rakhine population must not be demonised and targeted by the military on suspicion of association with the AA.

Lee arrives in Dhaka today to see the Rohingya situation in Cox's Bazar district amid Myanmar's continued denial to her access to Rakhine State.