Image Courtesy: UN

Today, a meeting was conducted by the UN human rights office (OHCHR) regarding the various issues on Myanmar. These issues include the violation of rights and the proliferation of hateful speech against minority groups. The spokesperson of OHCHR mentioned that the minority communities, ‘Rohingya Muslim’ and ‘Rakhine’ population have been disproportionately affected.

In the past two months, several students have been charged with four of them being sentenced to over six years of imprisonment. Ravina Shamdasani said, “These students had only called for an end to the conflicts in the northern Rakhine and Chin provinces and reinstatement of mobile internet services in those areas, as well as for the release of other detained student activists.”

She further requested the Government to drop charges against all those facing legal action for exercising their right to freedom of expression. However, the conflict comes ahead of the election which is scheduled to be held on November, 8. She stated that despite the election is a significant milestone in Myanmar’s democratic transition, the public still has to face restrictions in freedom of opinion, expression, and access to information, and many more. She also voiced concern over Government and military leadership’s intolerance towards opposing views or criticism of its policies and actions, in the run-up to voting.

In the meeting, Shamdasani mentioned how citizenship and electoral laws confer different rights to different classes of citizens in Myanmar. “This affects Muslim minorities who are largely excluded from any citizenship rights, according to the UN rights office,” she added. She further informed that there has been an important disenfranchisement resulting from the Union Election Commission’s announcement on 16 October, that election would not be taking place in 56 townships, including in Rakhine province. Ravina also spoke about the Internet shutdown in Rakhine, and Chin. “This action severely limits the ability of residents to receive and deliver reliable information, including on COVID-19 and polling procedures,” said Ravina.

At the end of the meeting, she showed deep concerns over the unrelenting proliferation of hateful speech against Muslims on the Facebook social media platform. Facebook has made an effort to identify and remove such content, she added. The OHCHR spokesperson requested the Government of Myanmar, to take action in line with the Presidential Directive 3/2020 of April this year to denounce such hateful language publicly and to promote tolerance, non-discrimination, and pluralism in the speech by public officials and electoral candidates.

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