Myanmar blackout may be cover for gross human rights violations — UN investigator

Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. (AP)
Updated 25 June 2019

Myanmar blackout may be cover for gross human rights violations — UN investigator

  • The Arakan Army is an insurgent group that recruits from the mainly Buddhist ethnic Rakhine population and is fighting for greater autonomy for the state

GENEVA: Myanmar’s army may be committing gross human rights violations under cover of a mobile phone blackout in parts of Myanmar’s Rakhine and Chin states, UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee said on Monday.
Lee, an independent expert who reports to the UN Human Rights Council on human rights in Myanmar, said nine townships had been blacked out, with no media access and serious restrictions on humanitarian organizations.
“I fear for all civilians there,” Lee said in a statement.
“I am told that the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s army) is now conducting a ‘clearance operation’, which we all know by now can be a cover for committing gross human rights violations against the civilian population.”
The statement said there were credible reports that the army helicopters carried out attacks in Minbya Township in central Rakhine on June 19, and the following day, the Arakan Army fired on a navy ship in Sittwe, killing and injuring several soldiers.
The Arakan Army is an insurgent group that recruits from the mainly Buddhist ethnic Rakhine population and is fighting for greater autonomy for the state.
The conflict has included use of heavy weaponry, airstrikes and helicopter gunships, with significant loss of life on all sides, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council earlier on Monday.
Rakhine state came to global attention after about 730,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh fleeing a military crackdown in response to militant attacks in 2017.
UN investigators have called for senior military officers to be prosecuted over allegations of mass killings, gang rapes and arson. The military denies widespread wrongdoing.
A leading telecoms operator, Telenor Group, said on Saturday that the Ministry of Transport and Communications had ordered a temporary shutdown of Internet services in conflict-torn western Myanmar, where government troops are fighting ethnic rebels.
It said the ministry had cited “disturbances of peace and use of Internet activities to coordinate illegal activities,” but a military spokesman said the army had no information about the shutdown and was not behind it.
Lee called on the government to end the mobile Internet ban.
Lee’s statement said the conflict between the Arakan Army and the Tatmadaw has been going on since late 2018 and has displaced more than 35,000 civilians.


World rallies against Floyd’s death

Demonstrators occupy outside the building housing the DC Mayor's Office, during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington, U.S. June 6, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 40 min 14 sec ago

World rallies against Floyd’s death

  • Yet tens of thousands of Australians defied Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call to “find a better way”

LONDON: Taking a knee, banging drums and ignoring social distancing measures, outraged protesters from Sydney to London on Saturday kicked off a weekend of global rallies against racism and police brutality.
The death at police hands of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in the US state of Minnesota, has brought tens of thousands out onto the streets during a pandemic that is ebbing in Asia and Europe but still spreading in other parts of the world.
“It is time to burn down institutional racism,” one speaker shouted through a megaphone at a hooting crowd of thousands outside the parliament building in London.
“Silence is violence,” the throng shouted back in the rain.
Officials around the world have been trying to balance understanding at people’s pent-up anger with warnings about the dangers of a disease that has officially claimed nearly 400,000 lives globally.
Yet tens of thousands of Australians defied Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call to “find a better way.”