Oct 26, 2012
Criminal elements are exploiting the mistrust between communities to spread fear and hatred and to cause large-scale loss of human lives, the UN said.
Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has termed the most recent outbreak of communal violence in five townships in Myanmar’s Rakhine as deeply troubling.
“The widening mistrust between the communities is being exploited by militant and criminal elements to cause large-scale loss of human lives, material destruction, displaced families, as well as fear, humiliation and hatred affecting the people from all walks of life,” he said. The spokesperson added that the Secretary-General has noted the clear recognition at the highest political levels in Myanmar of the need to contain this communal violence.
Quoting Ban Ki-moon, he said the UN Secretary-General has called on the authorities to take urgent and effective action to bring under control all cases of lawlessness. “The vigilante attacks, targeted threats and extremist rhetoric must be stopped. If this is not done, the fabric of social order could be irreparably damaged and the reform and opening up process being currently pursued by the Government is likely to be jeopardized,” the spokesperson quoting Ki-moon said.
Praising Myanmar for striving to be an example of tolerance and moderation in Asia and the world, the UN said, “Such events must not be allowed to tarnish its efforts. The United Nations is ready to do whatever is necessary to alleviate the situation and bring tranquillity and harmony to the region.”
In another development, Tomás Ojea Quintana , Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said the Government and all stakeholders in Myanmar must tackle all human rights challenges for democratic transition and national reconciliation to progress. Human rights considerations must shape the process of economic growth, legislative reform and institutional change, he said.
While the fast pace of reform in Myanmar was encouraging, bolder steps were needed to end persistent right violations, particularly in strife-torn border areas, that were testing the country’s nascent democracy, Quintana said. “I’m concerned that violence has continued and that more people have lost their lives and homes in recent days,” he said pointing to sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine State, in the west, which had left 88 people dead, 858 detained and 70,000 displaced.
Praising the Myanmar Government’s move to set up an independent Investigation Commission into the matter as an important first step to hold perpetrators to account, he urged the Government to address the deep-rooted ethnic and religious prejudices and discrimination fuelling tension and conflict between the Buddhist and Muslims communities. He also called for a review of the 1982 Citizenship Act, and a new Government policy that would integrate, rather than segregate, the two groups.
While lauding the Government’s progress in negotiating ceasefires with ethnic armed groups, he pointed to allegations of continued attacks on civilians, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, internal displacement, torture, forced labour, and the continued recruitment of child soldiers and landmine use by all parties to the conflict in Kachin state.
The Government must, he stated, address all such allegations and allow United Nations and aid agencies full access to people in need of humanitarian relief in all areas. Quintana also urged further lifting of restrictions on the media and freedom of expression, setting up a truth commission to address past rights violations, and institutional and legal reforms to bolster land and housing rights in the face of land confiscations by Government forces and large private companies.
When asked if the Myanmar Government was ready to make amends for the recent massacres of the Rohingya communities, Quintana said that there clearly was endemic discrimination against Rohingya people in Myanmar. “While some Government officials were ready to listen and find solutions, there were no concrete steps to address the root causes of the problem.
The report of the Government’s Investigation Commission into the matter was due in mid-November, but its release would likely be postponed. In the meantime, there were huge street demonstrations against the United Nations and the Rohingya population,” he said.
When asked if he had visited Rohingya communities that had fled to Bangladesh and whether the United Nations was doing enough to help them, he said his mandate specifically covered the situation in Myanmar. He noted, however, that UNHCR was working hard to protect civilians fleeing Myanmar to other nations.