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.
    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

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.