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New UN human rights rapporteur to touch down this week

By Tim McLaughlin
Myanmar Times
July 15, 2014

The UN’s newly appointed special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar will begin her first visit to the country later this week.

Yanghee Lee will visit Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon and Rakhine and Kachin states on her 10-day trip, which begins on July 17. She will also travel to Mandalay, where a recent outbreak of violence between Muslims and Buddhists left two men dead.

“A frank and open exchange of views will be vital to help me better understand the realities on the ground,” Ms Lee said in a statement. “And it is my intention, as special rapporteur, to work closely with the government and people of Myanmar, towards the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.”

The position of special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar has existed since 1992. It is nominated by the UN secretary general and mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.

Ms Lee took over the role of special rapporteur in June from Tomás Quintana, who held the post for six years – the maximum period allowable – before finishing his mandate in May 2014.

Though granted greater and more frequent access to Myanmar than his predecessors, Mr Quintana’s time as special rapporteur was dogged in recent years by accusations that he was biased toward the country’s Muslims.

Visits to Rakhine State were regularly met by protesters and in August 2013 Mr Quintana’s convoy was attacked while travelling through Meiktila, less than six months after more than 40 people were killed in religious violence in the town. The government rejected Mr Quintana’s version of the incident.

Previously, Ms Lee was a member and chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child from 2003 to 2011 and is the founding president of International Child Rights Center. She is a professor at Sungkyunwan University in Seoul.

Ms Lee’s visit will conclude on July 26. She will present her first report of Myanmar to the UN General Assembly in October.

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