Myanmar defends rejection of UN human rights probe
The UN's attempts to investigate alleged abuses against Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar is unnecessary and will only "aggravate" the situation, a senior official said Tuesday.
The government has refused entry to a UN team probing allegations of killing, rape and torture by security forces against Rohingya during a four-month security operation in the Maungdaw area of Rakhine state.
A UN report issued in February uncovered widespread human rights violations by security forces in Rakhine that indicated crimes against humanity.
By interviewing Rohingya refugees in neighboring Bangladesh, the UN documented mass gang rape, killings, including of babies and young children, brutal beatings and disappearances.
On July 9, Yanghee Lee, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, arrived in capital Nay Pyi Taw for a 12-day visit. She hopes to visit Maungdaw.
However, National Security Advisor Thaung Tun said Tuesday that the government "disassociated itself [from the visit] because we found it was less than constructive."
Addressing diplomats and UN officials in Yangon, he added: "We believe that the mission can only aggravate the situation on the ground."
His remarks follow the release of a World Food Program (WFP) report last week which reported that the crackdown -- launched last October after nine police officers were killed in Maungdaw -- had left nearly 226,000 Rohingya on the brink of starvation.
The (WFP) said nearly one-third of the population in northern Rakhine, where Rohingya Muslims form the majority, were identified as severely food-insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance. Among them were an estimated 80,500 children under the age of five.
Thaung Tun claimed humanitarian aid had reached nearly 95 percent of the affected area as UN agencies and international NGOs were allowed to return to the region in January.
"We also let independent local and foreign journalists visit the area," he added.
A military inquiry into allegations of human rights violations cleared the military of widespread abuses and found three soldiers guilty of relatively minor offenses, despite the government admitting 106 people were killed during the operation.
Rohingya groups have said approximately 400 were slain.
Thousands of Rohingya have sheltered in refugee camps since communal violence flared in Rakhine in mid-2012.
The state is home to around 1.2 million Rohingya, who have long been officially labelled "Bengali" -- a term suggesting they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Despite having lived in the area for generations, Rohingya have been effectively denied citizenship by a 1982 nationality law and have restricted basic rights such as freedom of movement.