Myanmar bans UN official as military finds mass grave in Rakhine

Myanmar has banned a United Nations official investigating the ongoing crackdown in Rakhine State from the country, a...

Posted: Dec 20, 2017 2:19 PM
Updated: Dec 20, 2017 2:19 PM

Myanmar has banned a United Nations official investigating the ongoing crackdown in Rakhine State from the country, after claiming a previous report by her was biased and unfair, the UN said Wednesday.

Yanghee Lee, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, was informed Wednesday all access to the country has been denied and cooperation withdrawn for the duration of her tenure, the UN said in a statement.

Reporting on Myanmar has become more and more difficult since the anti-Rohingya crackdown began

Multiple journalists have been detained and threatened with arrest

"I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar government," Lee said. "This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country."

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay told CNN Lee "is not impartial and objective when conducting her work, there is no trust in her."

The ban came a day after Myanmar state media reported that a mass grave with 10 bodies inside had been found at Inn Din, north of Rakhine state capital Sittwe. Photos published by the military showed the grave being exhumed and multiple skeletal remains.

The army said "an investigation would be carried out," according to the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

More than 650,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed the Bangladeshi border from Rakhine State since renewed violence broke out in late August. Both the UN and the United States say the violence amounts to ethnic cleansing.

The Myanmar government says the bloodshed resulted from a military crackdown on militants who carried out co-ordinated attacks on border posts.

A recent M-decins Sans Fronti-res report said at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in attacks during the first month of the crackdown in Rakhine. In November, Myanmar's military said that 376 "ARSA Bengali terrorists" were killed in fighting between August 25 and September 5, referring to the Rohingya insurgent group.

"They don't want anybody to come in, either because they really are trying to hide something or I'm not sure, because they say one thing, that there's nothing to hide, but then they deny access," Lee told CNN.

HRW: Reuters journalists 'disappeared'

The recent arrest of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar has added weight to suggestions from human rights agencies that the government has something to hide.

Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested last week after meeting with police in Yangon, Myanmar's former capital. According to the news agency, the two had been investigating the ongoing crackdown in western Rakhine state.

The reporters were charged under the Official Secrets Act, a colonial-era law which carries a maximum 14-year jail sentence. Police officers who they were meeting were also arrested.

Since their arrest, the two journalists have been held in an undisclosed location and both their employer and families have been denied access to them, Reuters said.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch accused the Myanmar authorities of attempting to "disappear" the two journalists. Asia director Brad Adams said their detentions "appear aimed at stopping independent reporting of the ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya."

"Their secret, incommunicado detention lays bare government efforts to silence media reporting on critical issues," he said.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay said the pair were "in Yangon, if you want to know where they are you can ask the police." Attempts to reach the Yangon police were unsuccessful.

Cases under the the country's Official Secrets Act require presidential approval to go ahead. Zaw Htay refused to answer questions about the ongoing case, but said the pair were being prosecuted "in accordance with the law."

Myint Kyaw, a member of the Myanmar Press Council, said he believed the reporters "were arrested due to their reporting in Inn Din village," in Maungdaw township, the region where the mass grave was found.

"That is where they were traveling before they returned to Yangon and were arrested," he added, speaking in a personal capacity.

At least five other Myanmar journalists have been detained and threatened with charges under the Telecommunications Act, a highly restrictive media law, the Unlawful Associations Act, and the News Media Law, according to HRW.

International media has been largely denied access to Rakhine, except on tightly controlled military tours of the area.

Villages burned

The Rohingya who have arrived in Bangladesh have told harrowing stories of massacres, rape and widespread torching of villages.

At least 354 villages have been partially or completely destroyed since August, according to HRW, citing satellite imagery. Destruction continued even as the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments agreed to begin returning refugees to the area, the group said.

"The (Myanmar) army's destruction of Rohingya villages within days of signing a refugee repatriation agreement with Bangladesh shows that commitments to safe returns were just a public relations stunt," Adams said.

Of the 354 affected villages, around 120 were partially or completely destroyed after September 5, when the Myanmar government announced the end to clearance operations. Since October, 40 new villages have been burned, HRW said.

Responding to questions about the HRW report, Zaw Htay said since August there have been "almost 300" villages burned.

"Nine villages were burned in October and four were burned in November, so our details are very different to the details published by Human Rights Watch," he said.

"We are sending a delegation to the area to establish how the villages were burned, but the situation is very complicated, there are a lot of actors involved, including ARSA," Zaw Htay said, referring to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a Rohingya militant group the government has blamed for sparking violence in the region.

Huntsville
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 65°
Florence
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 69°
Fayetteville
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 64°
Decatur
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 67°
Scottsboro
Few Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 63°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 137564

Reported Deaths: 2399
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19938351
Mobile13507293
Montgomery8866185
Tuscaloosa8837118
Madison798179
Shelby607449
Lee597161
Baldwin560650
Marshall397543
Calhoun355644
Etowah354845
Morgan333428
Houston293921
Elmore271948
DeKalb244321
St. Clair235936
Walker235485
Talladega217830
Limestone214420
Cullman191920
Dallas179826
Franklin179130
Autauga178727
Russell17683
Lauderdale175133
Colbert167726
Blount162115
Escambia161624
Jackson159712
Chilton159530
Covington140727
Dale140344
Coffee13716
Pike121611
Chambers117542
Tallapoosa117185
Clarke110316
Marion97529
Butler91740
Barbour8867
Winston75013
Marengo72620
Pickens67014
Randolph66613
Lowndes65927
Bibb65810
Hale64928
Geneva6444
Lawrence63425
Cherokee61713
Bullock60714
Clay5918
Monroe5908
Washington56012
Crenshaw54332
Perry5426
Conecuh53911
Wilcox53211
Henry5105
Macon48318
Fayette4689
Sumter43719
Cleburne3945
Lamar3822
Choctaw35112
Greene30515
Coosa1743
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 194611

Reported Deaths: 2420
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby31097466
Davidson26797311
Hamilton963495
Knox960579
Rutherford945290
Williamson536636
Sumner489598
Wilson356247
Putnam336541
Montgomery313344
Unassigned30444
Madison299265
Out of TN297727
Bradley297217
Sevier266415
Blount256324
Maury242725
Washington235538
Robertson223939
Sullivan223133
Hamblen194828
Tipton184519
Gibson172624
Trousdale16697
Hardeman158426
Wayne15015
Dyer142017
Bedford137317
Dickson128015
Coffee127713
Fayette122719
Cumberland121919
Weakley121620
Anderson121013
Obion120211
Loudon11996
Henderson119125
Carter118028
Greene116946
McMinn116325
Jefferson114414
Lawrence108913
Warren10777
Macon106721
Monroe106618
Hardin105516
Lauderdale100316
Haywood99821
Franklin99410
Lake9252
McNairy92518
Carroll91320
Roane9126
Bledsoe8624
White85510
Rhea85413
Hawkins82720
Cheatham8199
Marshall7815
Overton7706
Cocke75310
Smith74011
Johnson7323
Chester65011
Giles64417
Lincoln6331
Henry6309
Hickman6008
DeKalb57414
Marion5518
Fentress5463
Crockett54419
Decatur5347
Campbell4614
Claiborne4455
Polk40710
Grainger3943
Union3762
Benton3418
Jackson3325
Morgan3213
Grundy3176
Cannon2950
Unicoi2911
Humphreys2673
Sequatchie2441
Clay2355
Houston2343
Meigs2323
Stewart2212
Scott2192
Lewis2081
Moore1831
Van Buren1660
Perry1530
Pickett1262
Hancock1073

Community Events