News / Asia

UN Official Says Muslims Targeted in Burma

Vijay Nambiar (r) U.N. Secretary General's Special adviser on Burma, talks to journalists after he visited refugee camps in Meikhtila, Mandalay division, about 550 kilometers (340 miles) north of Rangoon, March 24, 2013.
Vijay Nambiar (r) U.N. Secretary General's Special adviser on Burma, talks to journalists after he visited refugee camps in Meikhtila, Mandalay division, about 550 kilometers (340 miles) north of Rangoon, March 24, 2013.
Margaret Besheer
The United Nations' top official for Burma said Tuesday that recent sectarian violence in the central part of the country was “clearly targeted” against Muslim communities in the mostly Buddhist nation.  

Vijay Nambiar, the U.N. secretary-general’s Special Adviser on Burma, or Myanmar, as it is also known, just finished a short visit to the country where he met with officials and victims of the recent violence.

Speaking to reporters in New York via telephone from Thailand, Nambiar said he visited shelters where about 9,000 displaced persons - mostly Muslims - are staying after their homes were attacked and dozens were killed in the central city of Meikhtila.  Nambiar said the attacks were carried out with near “brutal efficiency.”

“The people were traumatized - the people who were in the shelters," said Nambiar. "But one thing I noticed was, it had taken them so much by surprise, they had lived for generations together with their Buddhist neighbors and they found it very difficult to understand how this could have happened.”

He said most of the victims still want to return home.  He added that in meetings with government officials, they suggested they would try to provide some sort of compensation to the victims.

The violence began last week with an argument between a Muslim gold shop owner and a Buddhist customer in Meikhtila that escalated into street fighting and looting by angry Buddhist mobs.

Nambiar said it is important that the perpetrators are caught and punished.

“At present the authorities have said they have around 23 persons who were actually apprehended, who were actually caught, and they are in the process of making inquiries to find out who else has been involved," he said. "When I met with the president [Thein Sein] yesterday, he was very firm in saying that firm action will be taken against them and that firm action will also be taken to prevent the spread of such attacks elsewhere.”

But despite those promises, Nambiar said there are disturbing reports of sectarian attacks in other parts of the country.

The U.N. secretary-general’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, has also expressed his concern about the communal violence.  In a statement Tuesday, he urged the government to promote reconciliation and tolerance and to take measures to prevent an escalation.

On Friday, President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in Meiktila and nearby townships south of Mandalay, asking the army to help stop the violence.  

The anti-Muslim rioting follows communal violence last year in western Rakhine state.  Fighting between Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists left close to 200 people dead and 120,000 displaced, the vast majority of them stateless Rohingya Muslims.

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Comment Sorting
by: ali baba from: new york
March 26, 2013 9:50 PM
from the best of my knowledge that Buddhist is very peaceful religion. from what I know about Islam. I believe Muslim are causing problem then cry as usual and blame buddhist
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
March 27, 2013 2:33 PM
to response to fahim
Islam is a religion of peace. is that a joke. in fact people killed with name of Islam is more than people killed in WW! and WW2
In Response

by: Arakan from: Burma
March 27, 2013 3:13 AM
you have no idea of what's taking place there. The Rohingya Muslim people have been suffering a brutal oppressive genocide for decades. They've been living there for centuries. It's only since the rise of militant Buddhism that there's been a rise in tensions. The Burmese Buddhists see the Muslim Rohingya as a lower caste of human being due to their colour and racial / ethnic origin, They refer to them as kalaar and Indian. Irony is that Gautama Buddha was an Indian and Buddhist holy texts are written in Sanskrit.
In Response

by: Fahim from: india
March 27, 2013 3:02 AM
i don't know who you are. you mentioned your name like you are a muslim,whether u r a muslim or something else. i wanna let u know that islam is the only religion of peace.The name itself saying peace and don't blame anyone without having any knowledge.Ok first go there and find what's the truth...

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