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Politics

Myanmar's meddling in Rohingya probe 'unacceptable': UN envoy

Government has refused to allow international fact-finding mission

Yanghee Lee, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, speaks to reporters at a Yangon hotel on July 21.

YANGON -- Myanmar's attempts to disrupt an investigation into human rights abuses against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority are "unacceptable," the United Nations' special rapporteur on the matter said Friday.

Yanghee Lee spoke to media here about her recent 12-day tour of the country. She reported being asked to give assurances that she would not undertake any activity related to a planned U.N. fact-finding mission during the trip. The government has refused to issue visas to participants in that effort.

"The general situation for the Rohingya has hardly improved since my last visit in January, and has become further complicated in the north of Rakhine," she said, referring to a western state with a large Rohingya population. In addition to alleged abuses by Myanmar security forces, there "appear to be incidents of Rohingya being targeted by unknown assailants for applying to be verified as a citizen," she reported. All this speaks to why an independent, international body should be given leeway to develop a full picture of the situation, she said.

Lee spoke of being denied access to certain areas, as well as of government attempts to disrupt her work. "Individuals who meet with me continue to face intimidation, including being photographed, questioned before and after meetings and in one case even followed," she said. "This is unacceptable."

"I am disappointed to see the tactics applied by the previous government still being used," she said.

Lee's visit focused on the intersection of "business and human rights," particularly in Myanmar's special economic zones of Kyaukphyu, Dawei and Thilawa. She spoke to civilians including farmers and fisherman affected by development of the zones and other large industrial projects, including an oil pipeline beginning on Madei Island in Rakhine state.

"These communities relayed experiences of land confiscation with little or no consultation or compensation, with efforts to seek redress often gone unanswered," Lee said. "Similar stories were to be repeated during my visits to other areas, showing this to be a truly nationwide problem."

Lee has visited Myanmar six times since 2014, when she was appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council as special rapporteur.

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