GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights investigator on Myanmar called on the government on Wednesday to “dismantle the system of discrimination” against the Muslim Rohingya minority and to restore their rights to citizenship and property.
Yanghee Lee, addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council, said conditions were not ripe for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to return to Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.
“The refugees’ return to Myanmar must occur in full respect of the norms and standards of international refugee law and international human rights law,” she said.
U Myint Thu, permanent secretary of Myanmar’s foreign ministry, told the U.N. council that his government could not work with Lee “because of her lack of objectivity” and called for her replacement.
Myanmar’s government was taking “concrete steps” on humanitarian access to Rakhine state, accountability for alleged human rights violations and implementing the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, he told the Geneva forum.
He did not elaborate further.
More than 700,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya have escaped Buddhist-majority Myanmar since last August, when attacks by Muslim insurgents triggered a military offensive that the United Nations has likened to ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar denies the accusations and has said it waged a legitimate counter-insurgency operation.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Tom Miles