News / Asia

UN Envoy Visits Burma’s Stricken Rakhine State

Vijay Nambiar, the U.N. envoy to Burma, leaves Sittwe Airport in Burma's Rakhine state, June 14, 2012.Vijay Nambiar, the U.N. envoy to Burma, leaves Sittwe Airport in Burma's Rakhine state, June 14, 2012.
x
Vijay Nambiar, the U.N. envoy to Burma, leaves Sittwe Airport in Burma's Rakhine state, June 14, 2012.
Vijay Nambiar, the U.N. envoy to Burma, leaves Sittwe Airport in Burma's Rakhine state, June 14, 2012.
Danielle Bernstein
BANKGOK - The U.N.’s special envoy to Burma, Vijay Nambiar, returned Thursday from a visit to Burma's western Rakhine state, where sectarian violence has killed 21 people and destroyed scores of homes.

Nambiar said he spoke with people caught up in the violence who are still "in a state of shock," and unwilling to return to their homes.  There has been widespread violence in the area recently between Buddhists and Muslims, who are members of the ethnic minority known as the Rohingya. 
 
Speaking to VOA by phone from the Burmese capital, Rangoon, he said the city of Maungdaw, where the conflict erupted, is now largely calm, but that the situation in the state's capital Sittwe is still tenuous and he was unable to visit some areas. Nambiar confirmed that 21 people died in the fighting.
 
Nambiar praised both the Border Affairs minister who traveled with him, and President Thein Sein, who responded by sending in the military to bring the situation under control, and declaring a state of emergency he described as "prompt, firm, and sensitive."
 
"This is an issue which has the potential of impacting on the entire reform process and requires to be handled very sensitively and in line with the international norms of international conduct," he said.
 
Burmese President Thein Sein said he is committed to equal justice and the rule of law in dealing with the aftermath of the conflict, he added.
 
Rohingya have long been viewed by the government and most Burmese as immigrants who are not entitled to citizenship or other benefits of the state. The recent fighting has led to a rash of inflamed rhetoric on websites and in domestic media coverage against Rohingya.

Violence broke out on June 3 when a mob of Buddhists in Rakhine allegedly attacked a bus and killed 10 Rohingya passengers in apparent retaliation for an earlier rape and murder of a Buddhist woman, allegedly by three Rohingya.
 
It will take time to address the longstanding ethnic and sectarian tensions, said Nambiar.
 
"I think increasingly everybody is conscious of the need to move away from such kind of ethnic stereotypes and characterizations of this nature because they realize that that is harmful to the entire project of reform," he said. "And I think while it is true that the messages that are being purveyed by being stressed by the top leadership need to filter down to the lower levels and there is still a lot of work to be done."
 
U.N. refugee agency official Preeta Law, a deputy representative in Burma, warned the fighting could have an impact on the effort to resettle Rohingya refugees now living in camps across the border in Bangladesh. "Of course in a situation of this kind of violence that's happened right now, in the immediate term, this would not be something that we would be looking at at this time," Law said.
 
Boats carrying women and children fleeing the violence have been turned back by the Bangladeshi government, despite the agency's plea to keep their border open.

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs