May 1, 2020 / 11:59 AM / a month ago

Myanmar dismisses fresh war crimes allegations by U.N. rights envoy as 'biased'

(Reuters) - A Myanmar government spokesman on Friday dismissed allegations by the departing United Nations rights envoy that the military was committing fresh war crimes in Rakhine state as “biased”, blaming rebels for violations.

FILE PHOTO: Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee gives her report to the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

“We found that her investigation has no balance and was biased,” government spokesman Zaw Htay told a press conference on Friday.

Yanghee Lee, special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, said in her final statement on Wednesday the army was engaged in activities against rebels that may amount to “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Rakhine and Chin states.

She said the basis for her conclusion was that the armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, have ramped up attacks against civilians in recent weeks with air and artillery strikes.

Dozens have died and tens of thousands been displaced in the region in recent weeks.

Two military spokesmen did not answer phone calls from Reuters seeking comment, but the army has denied targeting civilians.

Addressing the media on Friday, Zaw Htay said that troops from the Arakan Army, an insurgent group that wants greater autonomy for the western region, dress as civilians when they carry out attacks.

“When the military responds with counter-attacks to those who pretend as civilians, there is collateral damage,” he said. “There is no intention. From the military side, they have done the necessary investigations.”

The Arakan Army did not immediately publish a statement in response.

Zaw Htay also said the group was responsible for attacking a World Health Organization vehicle in late April, killing the driver. The Arakan Army has blamed that attack on the army.

The government has formed an investigative committee to probe the incident.

Editing by Toby Chopra

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