SITTWE, Myanmar: The ruling party in Myanmar’s Rakhine state government said Friday it refused to meet a UN envoy who is probing allegations of horrific abuse of Rohingya Muslims by security forces in the region.
Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, was expected to hold talks with members of the Arakan National Party in the state capital Sittwe, before travelling north to an area under military lockdown on Saturday.
Lee has faced threats and been branded a “whore” by Buddhist hardliners on previous visits for her criticism of how Myanmar treats the Rohingya, a stateless group that has suffered years of poverty and repression.
They have been targeted by security forces during a three-month crackdown in northern Rakhine that the UN said has seen at least 65,000 Rohingya flee across the border to Bangladesh.
“They offered to meet with us from their side but we have no plans to meet them,” the vice president of ANP, Khine Pyi Soe, said of Lee’s arrival.
“I don’t think that meeting with them is very important,” he added.
Lee’s spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.
Parts of northern Rakhine have been under military control since October as the army launches “clearance operations” to find Rohingya insurgents allegedly behind deadly raids on police border posts.
The crisis has drawn a storm of international criticism for the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, which took power in March.
Lee has slammed the lockdown as “unacceptable” and called for an international investigation into claims troops have raped, murdered and tortured civilians from the Muslim minority.
Ahead of her trip, she said violence in Rakhine had contributed to “disquiet regarding the direction that the new government is taking in its first year.”
Muslim-majority Malaysia has lashed out at Nobel laureate Suu Kyi for not stopping the violence, and next week will host foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for talks on the crisis.
Bangladesh has urged Myanmar’s government to end the violence and take back the thousands of refugees that have entered already overcrowded camps along the border.
“Bangladesh has demanded (the) quick restoration of (a) normal situation in Rakhine state so that Myanmar nationals…can quickly go back home,” foreign minister A.H. Mahmood Ali said after meeting Myanmar’s special envoy in Dhaka this week.
Myanmar’s foreign ministry said the two sides had “agreed to commence consultations for verification and repatriation” of those who had fled the lockdown.