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UN Envoy: 'Urgent Priority' for Myanmar to End Discrimination Against Muslims

  • VOA News

FILE - A Myanmar Muslim family, who identify themselves as long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims, look out from their tents at Da Paing camp for Muslim refugees in north of Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, April 2, 2014.

FILE - A Myanmar Muslim family, who identify themselves as long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims, look out from their tents at Da Paing camp for Muslim refugees in north of Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, April 2, 2014.

A U.N. human rights envoy is urging the government of Myanmar to make ending what she calls "institutionalized discrimination" against Muslims an urgent priority.

Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee, ending a two-week mission to the country formerly known as Burma, told reporters Friday that "such restrictions severely affect all aspects of life, including access to basic services and livelihoods."

"It is clear that tensions along religious lines remain pervasive across Myanmar society. Incidents of hate speech, incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence, and of religious intolerance continue to be a cause for concern," Lee said.

She said government reluctance to crack down on perpetrators of religious violence out of fear that it would lead to more tension sends the wrong signal.

Lee also criticized conditions in camps for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims. She urged authorities to ease restrictions on their freedom of movement, which makes it hard for many of them to find jobs.

The National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, took power in Myanmar in March after 50 years of military rule.

But hatred and mistrust between majority Buddhists and religious minorities, especially Muslims, have been simmering for several years and often boils over into violence.

Buddhist mobs have burned mosques, attacked worshippers and seized other religions' property.

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