UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar calls for ending persecution of opponent ahead of elections

Thomas Andrews, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar has Myanmar calls for ending persecution of opponent ahead of elections in the country.  

“I applaud the Myanmar government for setting a laudable standard for the upcoming election – that they be free, fair, and reflect the will of the people,” Tom Andrews, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said today.   

“But this cannot happen as long as it is enforcing laws that undermine the very lifeblood of democracy, and the right to vote is denied based on race, ethnicity of religion as it is with the Rohingya.”   

He said the army “is using the Penal Code, enacted by the British in 1861, to lock up journalists, students and others for exercising their basic right to free expression. Their crime? Their willingness to criticize the government and military.” 

Other laws, such as the Peaceful Assembly Act and Telecommunications Law are being enforced in a way that infringes on the rights to freedom of expression, association and freedom of the press, he said. 

The election campaign, “is providing a clear and compelling illustration of why and where reforms are needed to move democracy forward in Myanmar,” Andrews said. 

He said the government should lift its censorship of candidates seeking access to state media – one of the few options available to reach voters in light of COVID-19 restrictions.  

“Messages conveyed to voters through state media must be approved by the government – including messages that are critical of the government,” said Andrews. “I have heard from opposition political parties that they are being denied access to state media and their messages are being censored for criticizing government policies. This is unfair and denies voters information that they need to make informed choices on election day.”  

He also criticized a voter information app provided by the Union Election Commission. One of the few remaining sources of information for voters is the app mVoter2020 that identifies the race and religion of candidates and refers to Rohingya candidates by the derogatory term “Bengali.” The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar determined that this term is used as a tool of “systematic oppression and persecution.”  

“This is not only wrong, it is dangerous,” said Andrews. 

Photo Credit : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Myanmar_election_2015.jpg

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