[JURIST] A UN independent expert Wednesday commended [press release] the reform that has been achieved so far in Myanmar [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] while identifying additional human rights issues that still need to be addressed, particularly in the states of Kachin and Rakhine. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar [official website] Tomas Ojea Quintana urged authorities and citizens of the country to address issues of truth, justice and accountability through the creation of a truth commission to facilitate the process of national reconciliation and to prevent future human rights violations. Quintana stated that he was particularly troubled by the escalation of military offensives in Kachin State where thousands have become displaced since fighting began in June 2011 between rebels and government troops: “The ongoing large military presence, which remains beyond the reach of accountability mechanisms, means that serious human rights violations are continuing there.” Quintana also noted that in Rakhine State “both Muslim and Buddhist Rakhine communities continue to suffer the consequences of violence that the Government has finally been able to control, though question marks remain over the extent to which excessive force has been used.” The Special Rapporteur expressed his concern for the approximately 120,000 people in internally displaced camps, paying particular regard to the lack of adequate health care in the larger Muslim camps and calling for the safe passage of humanitarian assistance to such camps. Currently some local and international medical staff are unable to provide care to some of the Muslim camps due to the threats and harassment they face from local Rakhine Buddhist communities. Quintana urged local authorities to send a clear message through their networks that such harassment of medical staff is not acceptable.
Concern over Myanmar’s human rights record has been growing recently, as the country has attempted to normalize relationships with the US. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) [official website] reported last month that more than 2,000 people have fled the growing violence [JURIST report] in the northern Myanmar state of Rakhine and Bangladesh, leaving aboard boats operated by smugglers in the Bay of Bengal. In October Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called for an end to the sectarian violence in Myanmar [JURIST report] between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, calling on the government to do more to end the violence and protect the rights of the Rohingya, whose civil rights were effectively taken away with their citizenship in 1982. In August Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) [advocacy website] reported that Myanmar’s army is still committing human rights abuses [JURIST report] against ethnic minorities in Karen state. Earlier that month HRW accused [JURIST report] Myanmar security forces of human rights abuses against a minority religious community. In July UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also expressed concern [JURIST report] about both the continued violence in Myanmar and the country’s human rights abuses committed in dealing with it.