Follow Malaysia’s lead to improve Rohingya refugees’ lives, says UN rep

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee speaks during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur July 18, 2019. — Reuters pic
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee speaks during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur July 18, 2019. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Prof Yanghee Lee urged countries to follow Malaysia’s lead in taking steps to improve the lives of Rohingya refugees.

Lee said while here, she visited an Alternative Learning Centre which provides basic education and skills to Rohingya children to ensure that they do not become a lost generation

“...as Rohingya children (they) are largely denied education in Myanmar. I would like to suggest to other States that host large numbers of refugees to follow Malaysia’s lead in this area,” she said in a press conference, after concluding her visit to Malaysia on Thursday.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, refugee children in Malaysia obtain their education via an informal parallel system of 133 community-based learning centres in the country as they are denied access to the formal education system.

Lee arrived here on Tuesday and have met with Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Myanmar refugees as well as civil societies group.

She said while in Malaysia, she met with refugees from different parts of Myanmar including Rakhine, Chin, Kayin, Shan and Kachin.

“The problem of Myanmar being a significant refugee-producing country is not new — and some have arrived more recently, as people continue to come here regularly,” she said, describing that Malaysia is a safe haven for them.

“None of them said that they felt they would be safe if they returned home,” she added.

Lee said the refugees shared their concerns about their desire for easier access to healthcare, education and work opportunities, of which she had conveyed to the Malaysian government in her meetings with Saifuddin.

The South Korean said after her visit to Malaysia and Thailand, it was extremely clear how the human rights situation in Myanmar is continuing to create serious regional issues for Southeast Asia, including the existence of nearly 1.5 million refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

“These issues include...trafficking and smuggling of people from Myanmar through the region and the drug trade within and outside the region. It is incumbent on Myanmar’s neighbours to acknowledge these most serious issues, that Myanmar has produced them and that they continue to have significant impacts on countries in the region,” she said.

Meanwhile, commenting on the US’ sanctions on four top military leaders of Myanmar which denied them and their immediate families entry into the US, Lee said more concrete actions are needed.

“Well, better late than never. But why did it take the US so long to do this? I think they also need to freeze their assets and the assets of their families,” she said, adding that actions should also be extended to other top military leaders.

The US State Department on Tuesday issued sanctions targeting military Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, his deputy Soe Win, Brig. Gen. Than Oo and Brig. Gen Aung Aung. — Bernama

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