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.

You May Like

US Companies Pledge Action on Climate Change

Goals include reducing emissions by as much as 50 percent, reducing water usage by 80 percent, and buying 100 percent renewable energy

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

UNICEF: Hidden Epidemic of HIV Among Adolescents

Researchers warn that Asia Pacific nations facing sharp rise in incidence of HIV among adolescents

This forum has been closed.
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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs