More must be done by the Government of Myanmar to protect children in the country, says a United Nations human rights expert.
Reporting to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, reminded the Government that this obligation extended to all children within its jurisdiction, including all those from the Rohingya minority living in Rakhine State.
Expressing concern that at least 13 children were being held by police in Rakhine, the Special Rapporteur highlighted that children should be detained “strictly as a last resort.”
She also called for an immediate Government investigation into the death in custody of one from among the 13, in order to fully probe the circumstances including why the death was not reported for four months.
Ms. Lee noted the overall situation in Rakhine State remains tense with incidents of alleged rape, torture, kidnapping and a village official being stabbed to death.
The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern about the situation of Rohingya children who have fled Myanmar.
“I am especially alarmed by the reported recent rise in the number of child brides among women and girls who fled Myanmar and live in neighbouring countries,” she said. “This perpetuates the cycle of violence and of poverty experienced by these young women.”
“I call on the Government to do more to protect all children, including those forced to work, from abuse and neglect,” said the expert, expressing shock at the recent case of a girl working as a domestic servant and who had been abused by her employers.
The Special Rapporteur provided an update to the Council on several other issues of concern, including the reported estimated 66 cases brought under a vague defamation provision of the Telecommunications Act since the new government came to power, and the continuing reports of serious human rights violations allegedly committed by several parties to the conflict in Kachin and Shan States.
Highlighting the number of alarming incidents of incitement of intercommunal tension and religious violence since her last update, the expert called on the Government of Myanmar to “take more concerted, systematic efforts to curb hate speech and violence incited by nationalist groups.”
On a more positive note, Ms. Lee congratulated Myanmar on becoming a medium-ranked country in the human development index.
The Special Rapporteur will visit Myanmar in July and said she will continue to look into business and human rights issues.
“I stand ready to assist in any way I can to achieve a Myanmar where the rights and fundamental freedoms of all are respected and fully realized,” she said.