Yanghee Lee warned the Burmese government following her trip to the country that it would “appear less and less credible” should it remain on the defense in response to allegations of abuse. On January 13th, Lee arrived in Burma for a 12 day visit as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights. This was in response to government denial of claims by minority Rohingya of violence and sexual assault by security forces. Dozens of rapes by Burmese army soldiers have been reported during renewed conflict in the Rakhine state in Burma since October.
Women’s groups in Burma are deeply concerned about the ongoing use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Burma’s 2008 Constitution grants the army immunity from prosecution for alleged crimes in what the Shan Women’s Action Network calls, “license to rape”. The Women’s League of Burma documented 104 cases of systematic sexual abuse in ethnic regions over four years in a 2014 report.
Early 2016 saw high hopes in the country for change under the new government led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. However, Lee noted the “commitment [to improving the lives of the people] has yet to translate into real actions that are felt on the ground.”
UN human rights envoy visits Burma as Rohingya genocide concerns mount, The Independent, 9 January 2017.
UN releases full text of Yanghee Lee’s end of mission statement, Mizzima, 21 January, 2017.
Rohingya refugees tell of rape, torture and arson by Myanmar troops, The National, 25 November, 2016.