Just a few days into her fifth visit and the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has already encountered a few bumps in the road, with the government blocking her from going to Laiza and Hpakant, in Kachin State.
Yanghee Lee and her envoy were not allowed to travel to the conflict-riddled areas of the state due to “security reasons”, UN Information Centre in Yangon spokesperson U Aye Win confirmed yesterday before declining to comment further.
The rights investigator is on a 12-day tour of the country, with further stops expected to include Sittwe, Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in Rakhine State, in addition to meetings in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon. Ms Lee arrived in Yangon on January 9.
In a statement released on January 6, the UN said Ms Lee had scheduled to visit Myitkyina, Hpakant and Laiza in Kachin State.
Laiza, the centre of the Kachin Independence Army-controlled territory, is near ongoing fighting between the ethnic armed group and the Tatmadaw. Hpakant, the heart of the state’s jade mining enterprise, has long been closed off to foreign visitors.
The special rapporteur’s envoy yesterday visited internally displaced persons camps run by the Kachin Baptist Convention in Myitkyina.
After the National League for Democracy-led government took office in April, Ms Lee released a set of tough benchmarks for the government’s human rights agenda, both in the short and longer terms. The UN’s January 6 statement said that by the end of her visit, Ms Lee “hopes to arrive at mutually agreed benchmarks with the government, which will include priority areas for technical assistance and capacity building”.
“The events of the last few months have shown that the international community must remain vigilant in monitoring the human rights situation there,” Ms Lee said in the statement.
Ms Lee is expected to continue to Rakhine State on January 13, and to hold a press conference in Yangon before her departure on January 20.