[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee [official profile] on Wednesday called on state authorities [press release] to address ongoing challenges to the democratic reform process in Myanmar. Recent studies found that excessive force has been used against civilians within the country. Although the government is implementing efforts to reform media governance, “journalists are still being interrogated and arrested.” Lee said that “if Myanmar wants to create a meaningful democratic space,” issues such as the arrest of 10 journalists in 2014 need to come to an end. Attention was also paid to escalated fighting in the Kokang region, “where over 100 civilians are reported to have died and tens of thousands…displaced.” Although the country is in a state of emergency, Lee urged that “the Government has an obligation to strictly uphold fundamental human rights.”
Myanmar has long been critiqued for its human rights situation. Previous Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana expressed concern [JURIST report] last April about the deteriorating human rights situation in the country’s Rakhine State [JURIST news archive]. In January of last year Quintana joined the UN humanitarian chief and called for an immediate investigation [JURIST report] following reports of alarming levels of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. In October 2013 Quintana warned [JURIST report] that sectarian violence between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State was contributing to wider anti-Muslim sentiments in Myanmar and threatening the positive changes undertaken by the country in the past two years. While Quintana acknowledged that Myanmar’s government has demonstrated willingness to address the situation, he expressed concern that discriminatory acts against Muslims remain unattended. Earlier that month, Quintana welcomed [JURIST report] the release of 56 prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, although he stressed the need for legislative reforms that would address the injustice against prisoners of conscience.