News / Asia

Top UN Official Offers Ideas to Quell Ethnic Strife in Burma

Smokes and flames billow from burning buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma, where sectarian violence is ongoing, June 12, 2012.Smokes and flames billow from burning buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma, where sectarian violence is ongoing, June 12, 2012.
Smokes and flames billow from burning buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma, where sectarian violence is ongoing, June 12, 2012.
Smokes and flames billow from burning buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma, where sectarian violence is ongoing, June 12, 2012.
Lisa Schlein
GENEVA — The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, is offering to help the Burmese government reconcile the Buddhist and Muslim groups in sectarian-torn Rakhine State. 

Guterres, who is on a mission to Thailand and Burma, also known as Myanmar, has presented proposals to the Burmese president and other officials for bringing the two communities closer together.

The U.N. refugee agency reports a tense calm has returned to Rakhine State, a remote region in western Burma.  In May, violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine flared after three Muslims were detained following the rape and killing of a Buddhist woman.  More than 60 people were killed and thousands of homes destroyed in sectarian clashes that followed.  

U.N. refugee spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says the UNHCR continues to view the unstable situation in Rakhine with concern.  She says Guterres conveyed these concerns to Burmese officials along with his offers of help.

“We would like to state that in Rakhine State we remain absolutely committed to delivering humanitarian assistance to both populations, the Rakhine and the Muslim without any discrimination," Fleming said. "We believe that this can be a factor for reconciliation -- this aid between the communities -- and we hope that the situation will be established there, with the rule of law prevailing and a human-rights based approach.”  

At the peak of the ethnic fighting, hundreds of Rakhine Muslims fled across the Naf River to Bangladesh. Their efforts to seek refuge were frustrated when Bangladesh closed its borders.

Security forces reportedly pushed back refugee boats when they arrived on their territory, leaving hundreds of people adrift in the Naf River.

UNHCR spokeswoman Fleming said the situation of people fleeing across the border is no longer acute.

“We are absolutely monitoring this and hopeful that things will return back to normal and that relations between the two communities can be re-established," she said. "But, one of the festering problems is, of course, the statelessness situation, As the nationality law stands, it is based on ethnicity and it does exclude certain groups including the Muslim Rohingya population.”  

Fleming says the UNHCR believes nationality should be granted to members of the Muslim community who are entitled to have it according to the present legislation.  And, others, she says should receive a legal status that would grant them the rights required to develop a normal life in the country.

On another issue, she says Guterres asked Burmese officials to clarify why 10 local U.N. and non-governmental aid workers were arrested last month, allegedly on criminal charges. The high commissioner also asked for access to three UNHCR staff being detained.

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Comment Sorting
by: Sazid Ahmed from: India
August 09, 2012 6:56 AM
Its a Burma govment politics to kill the all muslims by the Burma Public.......

by: Sazid Ahmed from: India
August 09, 2012 6:52 AM
Please help the victims in Burma...
Media can do everything......
Where is govment?
where is Sympathy?

by: Moe Thida from: Myanmar
July 15, 2012 10:30 PM
I can agree that statelessness situation worsen the problem, however UNHCR's strategy for humanitarian aid can be biased or utilized by this situation. Unless they have their own land to settle down, they shouldn't deliver so many poor kids and threaten the local people with outbreak population in that region. With the back up of UNHCR' humanitarian aids , they dare to swollen their family size, to ask more and more. To provide unbiased advice and aid to all those people, (not only muslins but also buddhist) is important for UNHCR's reputation and also for socioeconomic development of those people.

by: Toe Sein from: Myanmar
July 15, 2012 11:57 AM
No thank you for UNHCR to give assistance to Yakhine victims.People there have suffered more than physical losses committed by people whom UNHCR has provided food and shelter for many years.

by: Cả Thộn from: Hà Nội
July 15, 2012 11:57 AM
Must stop holy war around the world to save humankind. Please stop provoking this most stupid kind of conflict.

by: ching from: Dhaka
July 14, 2012 12:59 PM
the UNHCR is saying now that there is a need to be fair at distributing the relief goods. Does is mean so far it has discriminated against the Rakhine in favor of the bengalis in Rakhine state? there has been a long list of allegations against the UNHCR for being siding with the Bengalis, which it denied again and again. Shortly before the outbreak of the race violence, a Pakistani UNHCR official who worked in Bangladesh was seen with a good number of rohingya separatist leaders in Bangladesh, which many Bangladesh newspapers reported. Is UNHCR still held hostage by that Pakistani officer and his lords among the islaist extremists in Pakistan and in Middle East? We need a clarification from Fleming.

by: Mike from: USA
July 14, 2012 11:32 AM
MORE Muslimes atrocities...!!! when will it end...???

by: AHMAD from: INDIA
July 14, 2012 3:37 AM
if some people doing bad work then we can not give panishment to all people of whole country it is against to humanity.who releted to any group .we want to give panishment to those people who doing invoilence activity who releted any group relison. it my thought. we all are human and brother and all world as a home. (AHMAD ANSARI)

by: a person from Burma from: Burma
July 14, 2012 1:07 AM
The above statement by top UN Official implies that UN has been discriminating against the native Rakhine people and right now, it wants to stop and give equal portion of aid. And UN calls it "offer to settle ethnic strife". What a stupid UN?

They are formulating that the conflict occurs due to the nice aids the native Rakhine people don't get from UN for years. UN owes them something and they are giving it back now. So everything will be alright. Is that so?

What UN is pretending not to know is it is an issue of invasion into Burma and the people of Burma will defend it with their lives. The best solution from UN will be stop coming into Burma with the Islamists agenda.

by: Huyveasna from: Phnom Penh
July 14, 2012 12:09 AM
The world leaders should spend 1minute to reflect the sufferings which endured by Rohingya stateless people, they have nowhere to go=To sea is Shark, to land is Tiger, both awaiting to devour them. Why you all not care about other people's precious life such as of Rohingya, they also want to live as a dignity human beings, why the Burmese so cruel to them, only try to hunt them down and kill. Please bring all people in Rakhine State under the rule of law, do not discriminate against anyone, you Burmese being a Buddhist must be compassionate, do not act as a gangster. Buddha bless all.

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