A United Nations human rights envoy, Yanghee Lee, called on Myanmar's government Friday to end "institutionalized discrimination" against Muslim communities in western Rakhine State -- home to around one million stateless Rohingya.
Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, told reporters that the recent establishment of the Central Committee on Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development of Rakhine State signals the government's priority of addressing the complex challenges that both Buddhist and minority Muslim communities are facing.
"However, my visit to Rakhine State unfortunately confirmed that the situation on the ground has yet to significantly change," said Lee after finishing her 12-day trip to Myanmar as part of her mission to compile a report to submit to the 71st UN General Assembly in September.
Lee said the situation of internally displaced persons camps in Rakhine, as well as in northern Kachin and eastern Shan states, remains poor with concerns about overcrowding, the deterioration of temporary shelters and housing, and the lack of proper sanitation facilities.
"Ending institutionalized discrimination against the Muslim communities in Rakhine State must also be an urgent priority," she underlined.
She urged the local and central governments to remove, or at least relax, restrictions on the freedom of movement of the Rohingya and Kaman communities, stressing that such measures cannot be justified on any grounds of security or maintaining stability.
"In fact, as I have previously highlighted, such restrictions severely affect all aspects of life, including access to basic services and livelihoods," said Lee.
Lee arrived in commercial capital Yangon on June 19 for her fourth visit to the country and the first under the new government led by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.
During her trip, she visited Rakhine but a powerful ethnic party that won the majority of seats in the state in last year's election, the Arakan National Party, rejected her request to meet.
In her last visit to Myanmar in 2015, Lee's access to Rakhine had been denied after the previous government was angered by her criticism of restrictions on political freedom and her demands for citizenship rights for Rohingya Muslims.
By Kyaw Ye Lynn
© Copyright Andolu Ajansi