YANGON: As the image of Mohammed Shohayet, 16-month-old, lied face down on a river bank, drowned while trying to escape the persecution of Rohingyas in Rakhine State by fleeing to Bangladesh shocked the world, the United Nations on Friday said its human rights envoy for Myanmar will probe escalating violence in the country, including a military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, when she visits next week.
UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee’s 12-day trip, starting on Monday, will also take her to Kachin state, where thousands have been displaced by fighting between ethnic rebels and the army.
Intensifying clashes between Myanmar’s military and ethnic minorities has undercut Aung San Suu Kyi’s vow to bring peace to the country following her party’s elevation to the government last March.
Kyi has also faced strong international criticism for failing to rein-in a months-long military crackdown on Rohingya villagers in northern Rakhine State.
Areas of Rakhine have been in lockdown since October, sending tens of thousands of the Rohingya minority fleeing to Bangladesh.
Lee has slammed the lockdown as “unacceptable” and called for an investigation into claims troops have raped, murdered and tortured civilians from the Muslim minority. The army vehemently denies the allegations.
Image of drowned child draws attention to Rohingya crisis
The disturbing photograph of Mohammed Shohayet, released by CNN, was shockingly reminiscent to one that shook the world last September when the body of Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach, the result of his family’s unsuccessful attempt to flee the civil war in Syria.
Mohammed, his mother and three-year-old brother all drowned when the boat they were trying to escape on sank due to overloading.
They are survived by Mohammed’s father, Zafor Alam who described the Myanmar government’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims in the country.
“In our village, helicopters fired guns at us, and the Myanmar soldiers also opened fire on us.” He added, “We couldn’t stay in our house. We fled and went into hiding in the jungle.”