The statement was made in a press release published in State-run newspapers on February 4.
U Zaw Htay, director of the President’s Office, shared the press release on his Facebook page and wrote, “Under the former military government, no UN Special Rapporteur was allowed to enter into Myanmar.”
The press release says the Myanmar government “rejects such use of nomenclature unequivocally. Myanmar never recognises such terminology [Rohingya] which has never been included among over 100 national races of Myanmar or even in the census records of the British colonial period. Insistence on using this controversial terminology will only pose a barrier on the road to resolving this important issue. Use of such term by the United Nations would certainly draw strong resentment of the people of Myanmar making the government’s efforts more difficult in addressing the issue.”
The Myanmar government refers to the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine State as Bengali, implying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
In reference to controversial bills including planned legislation to curb interfaith marriage, religious conversion and birth rates, the press release says: “On the package of four draft bills, they are being drafted in pursuant of the will of the people of Myanmar. Prejudging the outcome of this domestic legislation process constitutes an attempt to exert undue influence on public opinion and incitement of the people.”
In response to the publication of the statement, U Aung Myo Min, a human rights activist and director of Equality Myanmar, said, “I think the [Myanmar] government wants to oppose what Yanghee Lee wrote in her report, which says that the government failed to prevent conflict provoked by religious hatred.”
The press release also includes comment on the handling of land issues and how the government has been dealing with remaining political prisoners, noting that the scrutiny process over a few remaining prisoners “has been carried out with special consideration.”
U Bo Kyi, the joint secretary of the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, responded by saying the government may be referring to how they handled the issue of political prisoners in the year 2013.
“In 2014 and 2015, they did nothing for the issue. Although the Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee was formed, it did nothing,” he said.
Many people are still in jail or facing charges, U Bo Kyi said.
On the issue of media freedom, the government press release says: “No journalists were apprehended for exercising their due rights but for the offences they had committed such as breaking into a restricted area. No country will tolerate a breach of national security by any person. The state of Myanmar’s media freedom can be compared not only with that of countries in the region but also the rest of the world.”
Ms Lee carried out her second fact-finding trip in Myanmar from January 6 to 16.