Author Archives: United Nations

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the situation in the Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca

The Secretary-General is increasingly concerned about the plight of migrants and refugees stranded in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca.
In recent days, the Secretary-General has spoken to the Prime Ministers of Malaysia, H.E. Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, and Thailand, H.E. Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha. The Deputy Secretary-General has also spoken to the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, H.E. Mr. Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali, and the Deputy-Minister for Multilateral Affairs of Indonesia, H.E. Mr. Hasan Kleib.
In their discussions with leaders in the region, they reiterated the need to protect lives and uphold international law. Furthermore, they stressed the need for the timely disembarkation of migrants. They also urged leaders to uphold the obligation of rescue at sea and maintain the prohibition on refoulement.
The Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General also encouraged leaders to participate in the upcoming regional meeting in Bangkok on the migrant situation. They hope that the meeting will lead to comprehensive outcomes at the regional and international levels.
The United Nations stands ready to assist all efforts to address the situation, including at the proposed meeting.
New York, 17 May 2015

Myanmar Celebrates Historic World Press Freedom Day 2015

04 May 2015, Yangon – The symbolic celebration of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) organised by UNESCO Yangon Office and the Ministry of Information was held for the fourth consecutive year on 03 May 2015 in Yangon. The joint commemorative event which, for the first time, brought together the Union Minister for Information, H.E. U Ye Htut, and opposition leader and Chair of Rule of Law and Tranquillity Committee of Parliament, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, along with representatives of the Interim Myanmar Press Council, Myanmar Journalist Association, Myanmar Journalists Network, and Burma News International/Ethnic Media. The event was very well-attended by Ambassadors, Development Partners and other media stakeholders, including young journalists, students and faculty members of the Department of Journalism, and members of Civil Society Organisations.

In his remarks, Union Minister for Information, U Ye Htut emphasised on the security of journalists especially in conflict affected areas, noting that “There is not only a physical threat but also a psychological threat to journalists that impedes them from performing their duties freely and in accordance with their code of conduct, and everyone must play his part in ensuring safety of journalists.” The Minister also reaffirmed the Ministry’s commitment to building an inclusive media environment, where the voices of women, children, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities are also heard.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged Myanmar Journalists to help ensure that the upcoming 2015 General Elections is held in a transparent, free and fair manner through unbiased reporting. She also called on journalists to increase efforts to bring press freedom through social media but to equally insist on greater ethics with dignity. She emphasised the importance of media freedom by highlighting the types of media censorship, stating: “Myanmar dropped pre-publication censorship in 2012. Self-censorship is not a good thing. In accordance with the code of ethics of journalism, reporters should not self-censor but be brave enough to point out the wrongdoings in our society. We do agree that media freedom has increased in recent years but it is not yet perfect.”

The joint statement by UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Ms. Irina Bokova and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on World Press Freedom Day was read by Mr. Sardar Umar Alam, UNESCO Myanmar Head of Office. In line with the theme of this year’s celebration, Mr Alam added that “in this election year, we urge authorities to make special efforts during the election period to ensure that the media community has free and full access, and reports freely without fear and intimidation from anyone.”

U Kyaw Min Swe, Secretary of the Interim Myanmar Press Council, emphasised the role of the Council in upholding freedom of expression and protecting the rights of journalists in Myanmar, and announced that the by-law for the establishment of the permanent council has already been drafted. Acknowledging the great progress achieved by the country in terms of freedom of expression, U Thiha Saw, Vice-Chairman of the Myanmar Journalists Association, mentioned in his statement “We are now among the top three freest countries in Freedom of Press in the ASEAN community. We did climb up substantially but we all know that we still have a long way to go.” For U Myint Kyaw, Secretary General of the Myanmar Journalists Network, closer collaboration between media and the Government is needed in order to pursue greater freedom of the press.

Representing Ethnic Media, Daw Thair Thinzar Oo from Burma News International, highlighted the role that media is playing in monitoring the peace process and stated that “Ethnic media can serve as a bridge between the ethnic armed groups, the government and civilian population to establish lasting peace in the country”.

Young journalists were also represented in the event by U Loom Sign Aung, student from the Department of Journalism at the National Management College. His said that “Five years ago who would have believed that the people of Myanmar would be able to practice “freedom of expression” like today? However we have all realised the importance that the media has for the ongoing process of the country’s development. It is vital that all youth must know use and abuse of media. We must have awareness of the power of the media and the danger of hate speech.”

UNESCO is supporting the Ministry of Information and media stakeholders in undertaking media development reforms in Myanmar and serves as Co-chair of the Media Development Thematic Working Group in Myanmar.

UN rights expert calls on Myanmar to address worrying signs of backtracking in pivotal year

GENEVA (18 March 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, called on the country’s authorities to rapidly address ongoing challenges to the democratic reform process “before they undermine the success achieved so far.”

“I was very disturbed by reports on 10 March that excessive and disproportionate force had been used against students and other civilians and that 127 people were subsequently arrested,” Ms. Lee said during the presentation of her first report* to the UN Human Rights Council. While welcoming the release of some detainees, she called for “the immediate release of all the others.”

Focusing on key issues surrounding democratic space, the expert drew special attention to the pressure on human rights defenders and journalists, including reports of regular surveillance, as well as prosecutions under outdated defamation, trespassing and national security laws, which have a severe “chilling effect on civil society activities.”

“A free and independent media has a vital role to play in any democratic society,” she said welcoming the Government’s efforts to reform media governance. “However, I am concerned that journalists are still being interrogated and arrested, and that 10 journalists were imprisoned in 2014. This needs to stop if Myanmar wants to create a meaningful democratic space.”

While noting that economic development had benefited some in the country, the independent expert urged the Government to ensure that “others are not left out” and called for “a human rights-based approach to development programmes.”

The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about the alarming escalation of fighting in the Kokang region, where over 100 civilians are reported to have died and tens of thousands have been displaced. “Even during a state of emergency, the Government has an obligation to strictly uphold fundamental human rights,” she highlighted.

“Far too often the people of Myanmar have suffered from the resurgence of violence and human rights violations in ethnic border areas,” the expert said, noting that there has been limited success in addressing the underlying issues at the heart of the conflicts, including control over and benefit from natural resources and accountability for human rights violations.

Ms. Lee warned that discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities was another factor fuelling conflict and expressed alarm on the package of four bills currently before Parliament that risks increasing tension.

“During my last visit in January 2015, I witnessed how dire the situation has remained in Rakhine State. The conditions in Muslim IDP camps are abysmal and I received heart-breaking testimonies from Rohingya people telling me they had only two options: stay and die or leave by boat,” she said.

The expert also cautioned against any provision in the Rakhine Action Plan that would classify Rohingyas as ‘illegal aliens’ and subject them to possible prolonged internment in camps or removal from the territory. “The expiry at the end of March 2015 of the temporary white cards held by many Rohingyas as identity documentation raises more uncertainties and further increases their vulnerability,” she stressed.

The Special Rapporteur made a call for collective efforts to find “meaningful ways to improve the human rights of all in Rakhine State.”

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/28/72): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session28/Pages/ListReports.aspx

ENDS

Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. Ms Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the Special Rapporteur’s statement to the Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15713&LangID=E

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Caroline Avanzo (+41 22 928 9208 / cavanzo@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights
Twitter: http://twitter.com/UNrightswire
Google+ gplus.to/unitednationshumanrights
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Statement by Ms Yanghee Lee, SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN MYANMAR, 28th session of the Human Rights Council, Item 4, 16 March 2015, Geneva

Mr. President,
I thank you for this opportunity to address the Human Rights Council for the first time, at a pivotal time in the reform process in Myanmar.
Before I start, I would like to express my deepest sadness at the recent sinking of the ferry last Friday near Sittwe. My prayers are with all the families of those affected by this tragic event.
Since taking up this mandate, I conducted two missions to Myanmar in July 2014 and January 2015. On both occasions, I have seen enormous potential in the country, which has come a long way since its transition began. As in any major process of change, there remain significant challenges, which must be addressed to ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of democratisation and development.
I would like to acknowledge the very good cooperation I received from the Myanmar Government during my missions, including efforts to ensure my safety and that of my team. The visits took place in a collegial and constructive atmosphere, enabling open and engaging discussions.
I was disappointed therefore by references by the Government that my visit could leave the people of Myanmar with discord, distrust and incitement. This has never been my intent, nor the intent of this Council in establishing my mandate. As a friend of Myanmar, my only priority is to be able to work with the Government and other stakeholders to contribute to a climate of unity and enjoyment of human rights for all.
While highlighting some positive developments, my report to this Council describes continuing challenges indicating worrying signs of backtracking on key human rights issues.
I would like to begin by updating the Council on the recent events in Latpadan involving students protesting for changes to the National Education Law. I was very disturbed by reports on 10 March that excessive and disproportionate force had been used against students and other civilians and that 127 people were subsequently arrested. This seems to be the largest crackdown by police on protesters since the clashes at Letpadaung copper mine in 2012. I hope these events will be thoroughly and impartially investigated. According to international standards, the use of force must be strictly necessary and proportional. I am further disturbed by reports that plain-clothed individuals were operating alongside the police and emphasize the dangers of using irregular personnel in law enforcement functions if they are not adequately trained and fully accountable. I welcome the release of some protesters and call for the immediate release of all the others.
A free and independent media has a vital role to play in any democratic society. I welcome the Government’s efforts to reform media governance. However, I am concerned that journalists are still being interrogated and arrested, and that 10 journalists were imprisoned in 2014. This needs to stop if Myanmar wants to create a meaningful democratic space.
During my visit, I was informed that human rights defenders faced regular surveillance and monitoring and that some are imprisoned along with journalists under outdated defamation, trespassing and national security laws. This worrying trend has a chilling effect on civil society activities.
I welcome the release of political prisoners Dr. Tun Aung and U Kyaw Hla Aung, but am concerned by the numbers of political prisoners who continue to be detained under the Law on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession and article 505 (b) of the Penal Code. For instance, last month 14 protestors from the Michaungkan community, demanding the return of land allegedly confiscated by the military, were sentenced to six months imprisonment. I have also received reports of 78 farmers serving sentences for trespassing on confiscated land with a further 200 activists on bail and awaiting trial.
Government and ethnic minority groups have made efforts to restore peace and ensure national reconciliation. However, I am concerned at the alarming escalation of fighting last month in the Kokang region, north-eastern Shan State, which has resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency. Reportedly, over 100 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced. I remind the Government that even during a state of emergency, the Government has an obligation to strictly uphold fundamental human rights.
Far too often the people of Myanmar have suffered from the resurgence of violence and human rights violations in ethnic border areas. I continue to receive reports of sexual violence, which go unreported through fear of reprisals. Humanitarian access is still limited in some areas with large displaced populations, including in non-government controlled areas in Kachin State. I remind all parties to the conflict of the need to protect civilians and facilitate lifesaving humanitarian assistance. There has also been limited success in addressing the underlying issues at the heart of the conflict, including control over and benefit from natural resources and accountability for human rights violations.
I commend the Government for the significant steps it has taken to eliminate the use of child soldiers, including the identification and release of 553 children. However, I understand that recruitment of child soldiers continues both within the military and non-state armed groups, and I urge the strengthening of age verification and independent monitoring and oversight mechanisms.
Mr. President,
Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities is another factor, which fuels conflict. I am concerned by the progress of a package of four bills currently before Parliament, which risks fuelling further tensions between ethnic and religious minorities.
The situation in Rakhine State remains dire. The atmosphere between communities is hostile. There have still been no credible investigations into the serious human rights violations that took place in 2012 and 2014.
The justification given by the Government to the confinement of Muslims in camps for their own protection is troubling. During my visit to the region, I met with local authorities and community leaders and visited camps for Buddhists as well as Rohingya Muslims. I witnessed the ongoing discriminatory restrictions on the freedom of movement of Muslim IDPs, which also impacts the enjoyment of other basic fundamental rights.
Conditions in Muslim IDP camps I visited were abysmal. People said they had only two options: “stay and die” or “leave by boat”. Distinguished delegates, no one should ever feel faced with such a choice.
The use of the term “Rohingya” continues to be met with strong resistance. I believe that the focus on terminology has paralysed progress and we should now collectively find meaningful ways to improve the human rights of all in Rakhine State.
I have not yet received a copy of the latest version of the Rakhine Action Plan. I would be concerned, however, about any provision that would classify Rohingyas as “illegal aliens” and subject them to possible prolonged internment in camps or removal from the territory. The expiry at the end of March 2015 of the temporary white cards held by many Rohingyas as identity documentation raises more uncertainties and further increases their vulnerability.
While the development of the economy has benefitted some in the country, it is important that others are not left out. A human rights-based approach should guide all development programmes. I welcome the creation of a legal framework requiring environmental impact assessments before development projects are implemented but I am concerned by reports of illegal land confiscation and forced evictions and the difficulty to hold powerful interests to account.
I commend the Government on the work being undertaken to improve education, health, livelihoods and the collaboration with the international community in this area. However, I was deeply disturbed to hear that around 300 students were unable to graduate from Yangon University in December 2014 as they did not hold Citizenship Scrutiny Cards. Education is a right for all and I hope this situation can be remedied soon as per the assurance I received from the Deputy Minister for Education.
Mr. President,
2015 is a tipping point for the reform process, with the prospect of democratic reforms to the 2008 Constitution and the holding of a free and fair General Election.
During my visit, I was encouraged to see that international electoral advisors were providing technical assistance to national election bodies. I am however concerned by amendments to the Political Parties Registration Law in September 2014, according to which only full citizens are able to form political parties. The recent decision of the Constitutional Tribunal on the ineligibility of temporary white card-holders to vote in the upcoming referendum on the Constitution reform is also concerning.
I am troubled by information that criminal proceedings for defamation and provision of “false information” are being brought against those making allegations against the military. This includes the conviction last month of Brang Shawng, who called for an investigation into the fatal shooting in 2012 of his 14 year old daughter, Ja Seng Ing.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is important to welcome the positive developments in Myanmar, but also to honestly highlight the areas of risk and the numerous challenges that must be addressed rapidly before they undermine the successes achieved so far.
In closing, let me inform you of the latest attack against me by the same U Wirathu in response to my report to this Council: “The beastly woman has done it again. It looks like she hasn’t learnt a lesson. This time I will not say it verbally. I will say it with my slipper. (…) Oh dear patriots, let us find ways and means to teach the beastly woman a lesson.”
Thank you for your attention.

“Invitation to Press Conference” – Media Advisory

 ASEAN-UN Workshop: Regional Dialogue II
on “ASEAN-UN Collaboration in Support of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation”

From 25 to 26 February, the Government of the Union of Myanmar, the United Nations and the Myanmar Institute for Strategic and International Studies will jointly organise a two-day workshop in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Union of Myanmar, H.E. U Wunna Maung Lwin and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman will host the event, which will also be attended by the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Mr. Vijay Nambiar.
Participants will include government officials from ASEAN countries; members of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), senior UN officials; and regional experts from strategic think-tanks and civil society organisations.
The workshop is organized within the framework of the implementation of the ASEAN-UN Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership, intended to strengthen ASEAN-UN relations through collaborative activities in the areas of political-security, economic and socio-cultural cooperation as well as cooperation between the ASEAN Secretariat and the United Nations. The workshop aims to discuss collaboration activities related to conflict prevention, preventive diplomacy, pacific settlement of disputes and the maintenance of peace and stability and to identify areas of collaboration for the AIPR and the UN.

The media is cordially invited to Press Conference as per following program;
When – 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM, 25th February 2015
Where – Grand Amara Hotel
No.(5,6), Jade Villa, Dakkhina Thiri Township, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar
Ph: +95 (67) 810 5174

STATEMENT BY THE UNITED NATIONS RESIDENT AND HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR IN MYANMAR, MS. RENATA DESSALLIEN

(Yangon, 18 February 2015): “I am saddened to hear of the attack on a Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) convoy en route between Laukkai and Chin Schwe Haw in northern Shan State on 17 February. Two MRCS volunteers were wounded in the attack. The convoy was carrying civilians from the conflict area in the Kokang self-administered zone to safe areas.

An attack on humanitarian aid workers and on civilians is a violation of International Humanitarian Law. I call on all parties to the conflict to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian staff and remind them of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, and to allow humanitarian convoys safe passage out of the conflict area.

I am also concerned by reports of thousands of people displaced by fighting between the Government of Myanmar Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and other armed groups in the Kokang self-administered zone, north-eastern Shan State.

I appeal to all parties to the conflict to ensure that civilians are protected, and to allow civilians who remain in the conflict zone safe passage out of the Kokang area.”

STATEMENT BY THE UNITED NATIONS RESIDENT AND HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR IN MYANMAR, MS. RENATA DESSALLIEN

(Yangon, 5 February 2015): “I am deeply concerned about the plight of civilians affected by the fighting in Hpakan Township in Kachin State that started on 14 January 2015. This includes more than 1,000 people who were displaced from Aung Bar Lay village and surrounding areas to Kan See village and more than 1,000 other civilians also affected by the fighting. I appeal to all parties to the conflict to allow the displaced people and other civilians who remain in close proximity to the area of conflict to be permitted to move to a more secure location and to allow for humanitarian assistance to reach this population in the safe areas. I furthermore appeal to all parties to the conflict to ensure that civilians are protected and remind them of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law.”

UN Myanmar rights expert: Backtracking on democratic space gains momentum in election year

YANGON / GENEVA (19 January 2015) – “Valuable gains made in the area of freedom of expression and assembly risk being lost,” United Nations Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee said at the end of her ten-day official visit* to the country. “Indeed, there are signs that since my last visit, restrictions and harassment on civil society and the media may have worsened.”

The Special Rapporteur expressed her concern about ongoing harassment, intimidation and prosecution of journalists, civil society activists and protesters opposed to government projects or calling for accountability of state officials. She highlighted recent cases where excessive force was used against rural farmers and urban residents protesting against development projects.

“If Myanmar is serious about transitioning to democracy, it must be serious about allowing persons affected by its actions to express their frustrations without being punished,” she stressed. “In relation to land disputes, the Government must proactively ensure that adequate consultation on development projects has taken place and that comments have been properly considered.”

During her visit, Ms. Lee met with political prisoners in Insein prison, Yangon, as well as persons in custody and awaiting trial for protest related offences. At the end of 2014, official figures state that 27 political prisoners remain in detention. However, the Special Rapporteur considers that the 78 farmers charged with trespassing during land protests are also political prisoners. In addition, hundreds of persons on politically motivated charges are awaiting trial. “These figures are too high,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted intercommunal violence as an issue that continues to be a barrier to peace to prosperity throughout the country. “I am disturbed to see some minorities targeted through rumours, discriminatory policies and in extreme cases, hate speech,” she noted. “During my visit I was personally subjected to the kind of sexist intimidation that female human rights defenders experience when advocating on controversial issues.”

Ms. Lee urged government and community leaders to show leadership in eliminating violence through respect non-discrimination towards all religious and ethnic minorities.”

“In the town of Lashio, in Northern Shan State, I was impressed by the commitment of inter-religious leaders to work together towards maintaining a peaceful community following attacks on the Muslim community in May 2013,” the expert highlighted.

In contrast, Ms. Lee pointed out that the Rakhine State remains in crisis. “The atmosphere between Budhhists and Muslims remains hostile. I saw internally displaced persons in Muslim camps living in abysmal conditions with limited access to food, health care and essential services. They are unable to leave the camps due to the continuing level of tensions. Some have been living inside the camps for two years,” she said.

“International human rights norms must be at the centre of a solution in the Rakhine State,” the Special Rapporteur said. “Collective punishment of the entire Muslim population in the State for the deeds of a limited number of perpetrators from the violence in 2012 is not the answer.”

In her meetings with government authorities and parliamentarians the rights expert raised her concerns about a package of four ‘race and religion’ bills that, if passed, “will legitimize discrimination, in particular against religious and ethnic minorities, and ingrain patriarchal attitudes towards women.”

The Population Control Healthcare Bill, the Bill Relating to the Practice of Monogamy, the Bill on Religious Conversion, and the Myanmar Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill respectively authorizes the designation of special zones for population control activities; prohibit and criminalize bigamy, polygamy and extramarital relationships; and propose State regulation of religious conversion, and of interfaith marriages involving Buddhist women and non-Buddhist men.

“Passage of any one of the four bills will signal to the international community that Myanmar is backtracking in its democratic transition,” the independent human rights expert warned. “I call upon all parliamentarians to thoroughly scrutinize these bills and to play a role in building a more tolerant and inclusive community. If these bills are passed, it could be viewed as one of the indicators of backtracking in the political reform process”.

“Much was said to me about the importance of the rule of law in Myanmar, and I fully agree. Yet much remains to be done before confidence in the legal system and authorities becomes a feature of this new State,” Ms. Lee stated.

The Special Rapporteur remains particularly concerned at the failure of measures to ensure accountability of military officials, including sexual and gender based violence in conflict zones. She also called on the ethnic armed groups “to address violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed by their personnel.”

During her ten-day visit, the expert met with Government officials, members of Parliament and the judiciary, the National Human Rights commission and civil society in Naypyitaw and Yangon.

The Special Rapporteur will submit a report to the Human Rights Council in March 2015, which will included her observations and recommendations to the Government of Myanmar.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://yangon.sites.unicnetwork.org

ENDS

Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council. Learn more, go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Sabina Lauber (+41 22 928 9473 / slauber@ohchr.org) or write to srmyanmar@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights
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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en

Myanmar: UN expert to assess human rights situation in Rakhine and Northern Shan States

GENEVA (5 January 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will undertake her second official visit to the country from 7-16 January 2014. Ms. Lee will gather first-hand information on the current human rights situation in the Rakhine and Northern Shan States, among other issues.
“I will review the situation in the camps for internally displaced persons and in isolated locations in the Rakhine State, to assess if there has been improvement in the critical conditions I came across on my first visit to Myanmar in July 2014,” she said.
The human rights expert will meet the Chief Minister of the Rakhine State to discuss current developments toward peace, stability and the rule of law, including the Rakhine Action Plan. She will meet as well with community leaders in the context of intercommunal tensions and efforts towards reconciliation.
“In the Northern Shan State, I will look at the human rights situation of religious and ethnic minorities,” Ms. Lee noted. “I will also speak with various parties about the situation of sexual and gender based violence in the context of the ongoing conflict in this region”.
The independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on the situation of human rights in Myanmar will also assess progress on the authorities’ commitments towards democratic reform. She will also review issues related to freedom of association and the media, as well as land disputes and protests against development projects.
“I will pay special attention to the significant human rights concerns raised by the package of four bills on protection of race and religion, which contain provisions that do not meet international human rights standards,” Ms. Lee stressed. “I am deeply concerned that if passed, these four bills will legitimize discrimination, in particular against religious and ethnic minorities, and against women”.
With Myanmar now in an electoral year, the Special Rapporteur will also discuss progress in the democratic process with authorities and civil society to encourage these forthcoming national elections to be transparent, inclusive, participatory, free and fair.
During her ten-day visit, the expert will meet with Government officials, members of Parliament and the judiciary, the National Human Rights commission and civil society in Naypyitaw and Yangon. She also intends to visit political prisoners that remain in detention.
The Special Rapporteur, who visits the country at the invitation of the Government, expressed her appreciation of the open engagement and cooperation that has been offered in the preparation of this mission. Ms. Lee will submit a report to the Human Rights Council in April 2015
A press conference will be held at the end of the Special Rapporteur’s visit on Friday 16 January from 5-6pm at the Sedona Hotel, Yankin Ballroom in Yangon.
ENDS
Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council. Learn more, go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx
For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva (before and after the mission): Sabina Lauber (+41 22 928 9473 / slauber@ohchr.org)
In Yangon (during the mission, 7 to 16 January): U Aye Win, National Information Officer (+95 94 210 60343 / wina@un.org)
For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)
UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights Twitter: http://twitter.com/UNrightswire
Google+ gplus.to/unitednationshumanrights YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/UNOHCHR
Storify: http://storify.com/UNrightswire
Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en

Discharge Ceremony Speech by the UN Resident Coordinator Mme. Renata Lok-Dessallien, Co-chair of the Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR), Myanmar 25 September 2014

 

Excellency Minister Lt. General Wai Lwin,
Lt. General Tun Tun Naung,
Deputy Ministers,
Major General Than Soe, Vice Adjutant General, Office of the Adjutant General, Office of the Commander in Chief of Defence;
Brigadier General, Tauk Tun, Director, Directorate of Military Strength, Ministry of Defence
Senior Representatives of the Government of the Union of Myanmar,
Friends and colleagues from the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting

Mingalarbar and a very good morning to you all. It gives me great pleasure to be here on this special occasion marking the discharge ceremony releasing 109 children and young adults from the Tatmadaw.  I offer my sincere congratulations to the Tatmadaw and also the young people and their families.
As you know, this is the seventh discharge under the Plan of Action that was signed between the Government of the Union of Myanmar and the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting in June 2012. Less than two months ago, the Tatmadaw released 91 children and young adults in its 6th discharge. To date, a total of 472 children have been released under this agreement.
I would like to express my warm appreciation to the Tatmadaw and the Myanmar Government on the commitment you have shown in fulfilling your international obligations under the UN Security Council Resolution 1612 and the Plan of Action signed with the CTFMR. Through this Plan of Action, in close collaboration with the members of the CTFMR, The Tatmadaw has put in place important mechanisms to prevent children from being recruited and used in the army, and to identify those underage recruited persons to be discharged and reintegration with their families and communities.
In talking with some of the young people to be discharged today, I am aware of the payoff from the hard work undertaken by those of you here today – the Tatmadaw as well as the CTFMR.  I know that there are many young people and families who, because of the enhanced country-wide awareness campaign on preventing underage recruitment and the opportunity for release, came forward to self- identify or use hot lines to be identified for discharge.
Furthermore, the regular review of suspected minor cases, which has been institutionalised between the CTFMR and Tatmadaw most recently, has proven an effective way to identify and verify children in the Tatmadaw. The discharge today is a direct result of these consultations and accelerated efforts.  I congratulate you all for these concerted efforts and encouraging results. 
I would now like to say a few words to the young people that are being discharged today.
I want you to know that you are discharged today, not because you have done anything wrong. It is important that you understand that you are being discharged because you were recruited by the Army before you were 18 years old. The age of 18 marks the threshold between being a child and an adult according to international standards.  To be recruited when you are still under 18 years is against international standards. Your discharge today reflects the Tatmadaw and Government strong commitments to its international obligations under the overall umbrella of positive changes and reforms that are taking place in the country. 
It is solely for these reasons, that you are being discharged today.
Some of you may have served in the army for some time and the army has become a way of life.  I want to say that today marks the first step in a process of transition from your life in the Army to returning back to your family, your friends and your community: to school if you are school age and are thinking of going back to school or to learn a profession; earn an income and develop fullest potential.
We want you to know that the Country Task Force together with the Department of Social Welfare are here to support you in this process, to help you reintegrate and to reshape your pathway in life.
Finally, I would like to reiterate on behalf of the CTFMR, our strong commitment to continue with  our collective efforts and a continued partnership with the Tatmadaw, the Government, families, children and communities to work together to ensure a child free Tatmadaw in Myanmar. I thank the Tatmadaw and the government for its current strong resolve and commitment to this noble cause.
And I wish each one of you young people and families here today, the best of success for your new start in life, and a very bright future ahead.    Kyayzu tin ba de.