News / Asia

UN Envoy Blames Burmese Government for Lack of Security

U.N. Human Rights envoy to Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana speaks during a press conference before he departs from Yangon International Airport Aug. 21, 2013.
U.N. Human Rights envoy to Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana speaks during a press conference before he departs from Yangon International Airport Aug. 21, 2013.
A U.N. envoy, on an official trip to Burma, has told reporters his convoy came under attack this week by a Buddhist mob and authorities did not protect him. 

U.N. human-rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana recounted how a crowd of about 200 people punched and kicked the windows and doors of his car while shouting abuse at him Monday in Meiktila, in central Burma.

Speaking to reporters just before departing the country after a 10-day visit, Quintana said the state had an obligation to protect him.

“And that did not happen," he said. "They failed to protect me in that situation.  And this issue was raised with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar and other authorities.”

The demonstrators denounced the U.N special investigator on human rights as biased in his assessment of the troubles between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

People protest U.N. human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana in Mektila, Burma, August 19, 2013. (VOA Burmese Service)People protest U.N. human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana in Mektila, Burma, August 19, 2013. (VOA Burmese Service)
People protest U.N. human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana in Mektila, Burma, August 19, 2013. (VOA Burmese Service)
People protest U.N. human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana in Mektila, Burma, August 19, 2013. (VOA Burmese Service)
The town of Mektila is where violence against Muslims left at least 44 people dead in March.

Quintana says the incident prevented him from visiting a camp where 1,600 displaced Muslims have taken shelter.

The experience, according to Quintana, gave him “insight into the fear residents would have felt when being chased down by violent mobs” during the attacks in the town five months ago.

During a visit to Arakan state last week, Quintana also encountered Buddhist protesters accusing him of bias.

But Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch says many other Burmese have appreciated Quintana's scrutiny of sectarian strife in the country.

“His attention in some of the ethnic areas, for instance looking at the situation with the Kachin, has been welcomed by many people on the ground," he said. "Perhaps the government does not like it. But the government is only one aspect of this, it is only [one] player in this scenario. And the larger international community, plus civil society, see him as playing a positive role.”

The watchdog group, Physicians for Human Rights, is warning that Burma risks “catastrophic” levels of conflict, including the possibility of genocide, if authorities do not halt hate speech against Muslims and the culture of impunity in regards to ethnic violence.

Religious violence in the past year in the country has left 250 people dead, mostly Muslims, and another 140,000 have fled their homes.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

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Comment Sorting
by: Pyie Sone(Myanmar) from: Singapore
August 25, 2013 2:21 AM
This UN Envoy show respect toward(bow his head..etc) those Muslims in Sittwe Prison. But did not even bother to take off his sock when visited a Monastery which is completely against the Burmese culture and religion. I guess the Saudis are paying his Salary not the UN.

by: tsp from: Myanmar
August 23, 2013 12:29 PM
Now Muslim people know what is pain and how is attack another religious , Now Muslim people know what another religious think they are . They think they can attack WTC and London Subway . They think they can cut off head to another religious people. Do you settle your own Muslim country problem Don't think you can hurt and bully to another , because of you are Muslim ?

by: Jordan from: Burma
August 23, 2013 2:50 AM
Burmese people have revealed their true colour to the world by their barbaric action against the UN special envoy and by extension, the international community. If the world doesn't believe it yet, just look at the narrow-minded racists here in this comment section.

by: Kyi Soe from: Yangon, Myanmar
August 22, 2013 3:50 AM

Did you say that Myanmar government didn't provide enough security for you?

Let me ask you! Quintanwar! Do you think of yourself as a human being?
Instead of barking before you were about to leave our country, you should have proved that you are a real human being by behaving with decent words and manners before you came to our country.
We recognize the word of human right you referred only for the human beings exclusively.
Let Wé Thon (Hanlin)

by: joe from: Yangon
August 22, 2013 2:05 AM
Dear , Tomas Ojea Quintana , if you not respect Buddhist people in Myanmar , better you don't come . Because of people in Myanmar are civilized now , so you can't lie and you can't cheat anymore in future . Please note this in next time and you knew what you try to do in our country , don't be a Mr Good .

by: Minn from: Aung
August 21, 2013 7:17 PM
OK, You better don't come anymore... FzzzK u

In Response

by: Karl from: Sittwe
August 22, 2013 1:19 AM
Sir Quintana.... instead of being an enabler of the jihadi talibans who are trying to invade and colonize our country, why don't you worry about the Coptic Christians in Egypt?!?

In Response

by: Aung
August 21, 2013 9:28 PM
yea!!! It is the best way...

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