Myanmar's refusal to grant visas to UN fact-finders disappoints church officials

Some church officials in Myanmar became upset after the government refused to issue visas to three members of a United Nations fact-finding mission who were supposed to look into allegations of human rights violations committed against the Rohingya minority.

(REUTERS / Soe Zeya Tun)Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech as she campaigns for the upcoming general election, in Loikaw capital city of Kayah state September 11, 2015.

In a statement to the Union of Catholic Asian News, Bishop Alexander Pyone Cho of Pyay expressed disappointment over Myanmar's decision. He said Aung San Suu Kyi's government seems to be faced with a difficult problem with the country's military, which is accused of abuses against the Rohingya minority, and the international community.

"Allegations of ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity should be fully and independently investigated," Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon said of the crisis last month. "The warnings of potential genocide need to be heeded."

Rev. Kyaw Nyung, Judson Church in Yangon's associate pastor, said Myanmar is prioritizing national interest over human rights. He said the government seems to think that the UN fact-finding mission might cause conflict in their internal affairs.

Suu Kyi and the previous military rulers who were in power until 2015 have been criticized over the treatment of the Rohingya minority. In 2012, more than 120,000 of them fled to refugee camps after around 200 were killed in the military's four-month campaign against insurgents. Suu Kyi has sided with the military amid international rights groups' accusations of ethnic cleansing.

When nine police officers were allegedly killed by Rohingya insurgents at border posts in northern Rakhine in October, military violence increased. The conflicts caused more than 70,000 Rohingya members to flee to Bangladesh.

The Rohingya have been residing in Myanmar and in neighboring Bangladesh, but they are still treated like illegal migrants in both countries. In light of their plight, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called on Myanmar on July 7 to grant citizenship to the displaced people, Reuters reported.

Grandi also met with Suu Kyi and visited Sittwe and Maungdaw in the Rakhine state where a large number of Rohingya Muslims reside. He also highlighted the importance of additional investments in the region which could benefit the communities there.