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New UN envoy to pay first visit to Myanmar

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The United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths speaks to the press before his departure at Sanaa international airport, on June 5, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS

The new UN envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, will pay her first visit to the country beginning Tuesday, holding talks on human rights and the Rohingya refugee crisis, the UN said.

The former Swiss ambassador to Germany who was appointed in April will meet with Myanmar authorities, “ethnic armed organizations”, civil society and religious leaders, a UN statement said Monday.

Following her visit to Myanmar, Schraner Burgener will travel to Bangladesh where 700,000 Muslim Rohingya are sheltering in camps after being driven from their homes by an army campaign.

Myanmar has said the military operation launched in August in northern Rakhine state is aimed at rooting out extremists.

After fleeing persecution, the Rohingya living in camps are now at risk from landslides triggered by the monsoon rains. A three-year-old child died in his sleep early Monday when a mud wall collapsed on his family’s shelter.

The United Nations last week signed a deal with Myanmar to allow access for its agencies to carry out assessments in Rakhine state, which has been largely closed to outsiders since the crisis began.

The Security Council sent a letter to Myanmar in late May asking the government to cooperate with UN experts to investigate allegations of atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar has refused to allow a fact-finding mission set up by the UN Human Rights Council to enter the country, and has barred UN rights expert Yanghee Lee.

The council visited Myanmar and Rakhine state in early May, meeting with refugees who gave detailed accounts of killings, rape and torching of villages at the hands of Myanmar’s military.

In the letter, the council said it remained “gravely concerned” by the situation and asked that Myanmar respond within 30 days to its requests for steps to address the crisis.


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