GENEVA Oct 31 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
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 neighbouring 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)