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Myanmar to bar UN human rights investigators from entering

Associated Press logo Associated Press 30/06/2017 By ESTHER HTUSAN, Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar's government said Thursday it will instruct its embassies around the world to bar members of a U.N.-approved fact-finding mission from entering the country to investigate alleged human rights violations by security forces against the Muslim Rohingya minority and other groups.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Tin told parliament that the government will not cooperate with the mission, reiterating the position taken by the country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, that its work would be counterproductive.

The U.N. Human Rights Council approved the mission by consensus in March in response to international pressure, and in May, it appointed three legal experts and human rights advocates to lead it.

Last October, the army launched counterinsurgency operations in Rohingya areas in the western state of Rakhine after the killing of nine border guards. U.N. human rights investigators and independent rights organizations charge that soldiers and police killed and raped civilians and burned down more than 1,000 homes during the operations.

The Rohingya face severe discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and were the targets of inter-communal violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remain.

Myanmar officials insist their own efforts to deal with the problem are adequate. Kyaw Tin said the government is complying with and implementing recommendations made by an advisory committee appointed by Suu Kyi and led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Critics charge the government's initiatives cannot come up with a fair solution because some of the people involved are biased.

The government's position was applauded by Than Tun, a senior leader of the Rakhine Buddhist community, which has generally promoted confrontations with its Rohingya neighbors and sought to exclude third party observers and mediators.

"I think the government is doing what they should do," he said. "We have disagreed since the beginning with the formation of Kofi Annan's Rakhine Advisory Committee, because this is our country and we have the right to solve the problems under the sovereignty of our country and there shouldn't be any outsiders' interference in our issues. That's why we accept and support the Myanmar government's decision on rejecting the fact-finding mission."

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