16 Jan UN envoy bemoans travel restrictions on citizens in IDP camps

Written by Tim McLaughlin Published in Myanmar Read 3919 times
Yanghee Lee (C), United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, arrives at Thet Kel Pyin Muslim Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp near Sittwe of Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 08 January 2015. Photo: EPA/NYUNT WIN
Yanghee Lee (C), United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, arrives at Thet Kel Pyin Internally Displaced Persons camp near Sittwe on January 8. Photo: Nyunt Win/EPA

Muslims in Rakhine State who were granted citizenship in September are still being barred from leaving IDP camps where they were relocated after the outbreak of violence in 2012, United Nations envoy Yanghee Lee said in Yangon on January 16.

Ms Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said those given citizenship status in Myebon Township as part of the government’s citizenship verification process were still unable to move freely.

“The lives of the IDPs who have received their citizenship cards in Myebon camp have not changed. They remain inside the camp with minimum food rations, limited access to health care and to other essential services,”Ms Lee said.

“I do not regard this as an acceptable situation.”

Mizzima reported in November that Muslims given citizenship had not been allowed to move outside the camp due to continued security concerns.

Ms Lee was speaking at the end of a 10-day visit to Myanmar during which she travelled to Rakhine State and northern Shan State. It was her second visit since assuming the special envoy’s role last year.

The government launched its citizenship verification plan in June in an attempt to tackle the contentious and divisive issue of citizenship status for Rakhine’s Rohingya Muslim population. Rohingya are not entitled to full citizenship because they are not a recognised ethnic group under the 1982 Citizenship Law.

The government does not recognise the term “Rohingya”and its verification plan benefits only those who agree to identify as “Bengali”. The government regards them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

During a ceremony at Thaung Paw IDP camp in Myebon Township in September, 40 people were issued with the pink cards for full citizenship and another 169 received the green cards for naturalised citizens.

Thaung Paw was chosen for the pilot project after some residents agreed to be identified as Bengali during the national census in March and April last year. Residents who wanted to identify as Rohingya were not counted in the census, in a last minute reversal by the government.

Ms Lee said that although humanitarian visits from INGOs delivering aid to the camp were being allowed three days a week, rather than just one, the situation remained dire.

“Health services remain abysmal and there is highly limited access to education,”she said.

“The despair that I saw in the eyes of the people in the Myebon IDP camp was heartbreaking.”

Ms Lee is scheduled to present a report of her visit to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

Last modified on Saturday, 17 January 2015 14:26