A plea for humanity from State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi could help to defuse the crisis in Rakhine State, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar said on Thursday.
Ms Yanghee Lee made the comment to reporters at UN headquarters in New York a day after urging the UN Security Council to issue a strongly-worded resolution on the crisis.
Lee said she was “baffled” by Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to speak out about the plight of the Rohingya, of whom more than 600,000 have fled to Bangladesh since late August when attacks by Islamic militants in northern Rakhine prompted a massive military response.
“It has really baffled everyone, and has really baffled me, about Daw Aung’s [sic] non-position on this issue,” Lee was quoted as saying by the New York Times.
“She has not ever recognised that there is such a people called Rohingya – that’s a starting point. I’m very disappointed,” Lee said.
She said if Aung San Suu Kyi was to “reach out to the people and say, ‘Hey, let’s show some humanity,’ I think people will follow her – she’s adored by the public,” the special rapporteur said.
Lee’s call for a strong response to the crisis from the Security Council came as she presented her latest report on human rights in Myanmar to the UN General Assembly on October 25.
“The crisis in Rakhine State has not only been decades in the making but has for some time gone beyond Myanmar’s borders. For a very long time now this issue has not been simply a domestic affair,” she said.
Lee said that although the plight of the Rohingya remained her main concern, the country faced many other human rights challenges.
The report expressed concern about civilians displaced by conflict in Kachin and Shan states amid increasing allegations of serious rights violations and decreasing humanitarian access.
Lee also said it was unclear if the peace process had advanced since eight groups signed the Nationwide Peace Agreement with the government two years ago.
Other issues raised in the report included concern about the impact on communities of developing special economic zones, land confiscations, discriminatory laws and the use of section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law to stifle freedom of expression.
“I have in the past commended Myanmar’s flourishing, widening democratic space. However, it seems to me that national legislation is effectively resulting in the criminalisation of legitimate expression,” Lee said, referring to 66(d).