Myanmar must protect Muslims and halt discrimination: U.N.

GENEVA Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:19pm EDT

1 of 2. Rohingya children, who fled the recent violence of Myanmar, sit in a house as they hide with other relatives in Teknaf October 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Biraj

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. human rights investigators called on Myanmar on Wednesday to halt deadly sectarian violence and warned it not to use the conflict as a pretext to remove Rohingya minority Muslims.

Some 89 people have been killed in clashes between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas in western Myanmar in the past 10 days, according to the latest official toll.

"This situation must not become an opportunity to permanently remove an unwelcome community," said a joint statement issued by Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar, and independent experts on minority issues and the internally displaced.

They voiced their "deep concern about the assertion of the government and others that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants and stateless persons".

"If the country is to be successful in the process of democratic transition, it must be bold in addressing the human rights challenges that exist," Ojea Quintana said.

"In the case of Rakhine State, this involves addressing the long-standing endemic discrimination against the Rohingya community that exists within sections of local and national government as well as society at large."

The Rohingyas say their homes were burned down by Rakhines armed with slingshots, wooden staves, knives and gasoline.

The United Nations says more than 97 percent of the 28,108 people who have fled the violence are Muslims, mostly stateless Rohingya. Many now live in camps, joining 75,000 mostly Rohingya displaced in June after a previous explosion of sectarian violence killed at least 80 people.

Fearful Buddhists and Muslims are arming themselves with homemade weapons, testing the reformist government's resolve to prevent a new wave of violence.

Rita Izsak, U.N. independent expert on minority issues, said the Rohingya constituted a minority which must be protected according to international minority rights standards.

"The government must take steps to review relevant laws and procedures to provide equal access by the Rohingya community to citizenship and promote dialogue and reconciliation between communities," she said.

The U.N. refugee agency has called on authorities to restore law and order so as to prevent further bloodshed and displacement. An estimated 6,000 people are stranded on boats or on islets along Myanmar's western coast, it said on Tuesday.

"We are appealing to neighboring countries, Bangladesh being very much one of them, to keep borders open. It is clearly important that people do have access to safe haven," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Martin Petty in Rakhine; editing by Andrew Roche)

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Comments (3)
AlkalineState wrote:
When you’re raising kids and a bunch of bearded wife-beating car-bombers move in next door, I’m sorry, call it what you want but…. hunt down the beards. These Muslims in Myanmar need to police themselves better if they don’t want to be singled out. They have been given multiple opportunities in that area to do just that. And so far, nothing but more problems from them.

Oct 31, 2012 7:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
LIBERAL777 wrote:
There are 57 Islamic countries. How many of these countries are seeing Christians waiting in line at their embassy to PERMINANTLY moving to said Islamic countries? How many western embassies are seeing Muslims in line trying to come to the christian west? The answer to these questions will truthfully tell you who is good and evil.

Nov 01, 2012 1:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ReutersAgenda wrote:
Where’s the like button for the two comments?

Nov 04, 2012 9:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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