The UN has expressed serious concerns over the human rights violations, including the right to political participation of minority groups such as the Rohingyas and Rakhines, ahead of the general elections in Myanmar on November 8.
While the elections represent an important milestone in Myanmar’s democratic transition, the civic space is still marred by continuing restrictions on freedom of expression and access to information, it said in a statement yesterday.
“Myanmar’s discriminatory citizenship and electoral laws confer different sets of political rights to different classes of citizens, affecting most clearly the Muslim minorities who are largely excluded from citizenship,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a briefing in Geneva.
Additionally, there has been significant disenfranchisement as the elections will not take place in 56 townships, including in Rakhine State. The Election Commission did not provide public justification for its decision, she said.
Also, an internet shutdown effectively remains in place in eight townships in Rakhine and Chin states, severely limiting the ability of residents to avail their right to receive and impart information, including on Covid-19 and the elections.
Blanket internet shutdowns may be counterproductive and contravene international law. Again, the measure disproportionately affects minority groups, including the ethnic Rakhine, Rohingya, Kaman, Mro, Daingnet, Khamis and Chin communities, Ravina Shamdasani said.
“While the restrictions on freedom of expression continue to mount, we deplore the unrelenting proliferation of hateful speech against Muslims on Facebook,” she said, calling on Myanmar to take action to denounce such hateful language publicly and to promote tolerance, non-discrimination and pluralism in speech by public officials and electoral candidates.
The UN said it is troubled by the intolerance of criticism against the government or the military.
Over the last two months, at least 34 student activists faced legal measures after they demanded an end to the conflicts in Rakhine and Chin states and reinstatement of 4G mobile internet services in those areas.
“We also call on the government to take measures to ensure that the right to political participation can be exercised by all, without discrimination of any kind,” Ravina said.