Arakan Unrest May Tarnish Burma’s Image: Vice President

Rohingya people receive their share of food aid from the World Food Program (WFP) at a camp for internally displaced people in Sittwe, Arakan State, on April 24, 2014. Restrictions on international aid have exacerbated a growing health crisis among stateless Muslim Rohingyas in Burma. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — The Burmese government has acknowledged that communal unrest in Arakan State is not only a domestic issue, but also has wider ramifications and requires ongoing humanitarian assistance from international organizations.

Burmese Vice President Sai Mauk Kham said on Monday that violence between Buddhists and Muslims in western Burma was threatening to tarnish the country’s image on the world stage despite other political and economic reforms since 2011.

“It is not a matter for Rakhine [Arakan] State alone,” he told government officials, including the Arakan State chief minister, during a meeting in Naypyidaw, according to state-run media.

Previously, government spokesmen have insisted that the Burmese government is capable of handling unrest in the western Burmese state, which has seen anti-Muslim riots that have left more than 140,000 people homeless since 2012, as well as attacks against international NGOs recently that have interrupted access to vital health care services.

Earlier this month, presidential spokesman Ye Htut reportedly accused Britain of interfering in Burma’s domestic affairs after the British foreign minister summoned the Burmese ambassador to discuss ongoing restrictions of aid organizations in Arakan State.

But Sai Mauk Kham—after hearing reports presented by union ministers, the Arakan State chief and other officials—acknowledged the importance of aid from UN agencies and other international organizations in the state, saying the government lacked the resources to support victims of communal unrest by itself.

“The Rakhine issue,” he added, “has made democratic government difficult and has turned the international community’s positive view [of Burma] into a negative view.”

Calling on officials to take steps in the future to avoid conflicts such as “the ones in Du Chee Yar Tan village and in relation to Médecins Sans Frontières,” he said further unrest could hinder the nation’s future with the United Nations, member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

The vice president was referring to allegations—which the government has denied—that a Buddhist mob killed dozens of Rohingya Muslims in Duu Chee Yar Tan village in January. He was also referring to the government’s decision to suspend the operations of MSF Holland in Arakan State following allegations by local Arakanese Buddhists that the aid group had been providing preferential treatment to Muslims.

Sai Mauk Kham called on aid groups to provide assistance to all victims of violence, to follow agreements with the government, and to ensure greater transparency in their operations. He also urged the Ministry of Health to ramp up its services following the closure of MSF operations.

The meeting in Naypyidaw came one day after US President Barack Obama warned in a speech in Malaysia that Burma will not succeed in its political reforms “if the Muslim population is oppressed.”

Pierre Peron, a spokesman for UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said he welcomed the Burmese vice president’s acknowledgement that aid from UN agencies and international organizations was crucial in Arakan State.

“We support the Emergency Coordination Center as a consultative forum for the exchange of information and closer engagement with the authorities and community leaders,” he told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, referring to a newly established body which must approve requests by aid groups to travel and provide services in the state.

“We look forward to engaging further with the government and communities through the ECC, while continuing to provide information on ongoing operations in the spirit of transparency,” he added. “However, given the urgent humanitarian needs in Rakhine, we need to resume operations as soon as possible. The impending rainy season will only aggravate the impact on vulnerable people.”

6 Responses to Arakan Unrest May Tarnish Burma’s Image: Vice President

  1. This is just face saving. Never stop atrocities in Burma on minorities

  2. It is not just the issue in Arakan state, human rights violations in other ethnic areas and ongoing war against the Kachins and the Palaung people is absolutely unacceptable. From the lips, the regime talks about democracy but their democracy seems military way to democracy, not the real democracy. Nothing has changed except the costumes of the people who rule the nation. In a genuine democratic nation, military servicemen must be just public servants, but the 2008 Nargis constitution gives too much political power to military which tarnishes the image of the Thein Sein government and Myanmar in international community. We the people do not accept this cosmetic reform.

  3. Obama is right, he is speaking basing on reality. In Arakan there was no problem between Buddhists and Muslims soon after the Burmese Independence. Why this time such kind of undesirable things happened? This is a created problem by right wing peoples and cronies also involve by some foreign countries instigated to RNDP party leadership which is totally corrupted.

  4. This should be a lesson to all non muslim countries, when they are a minority they are friendly and pleasant, when the become a little stronger, they try to inflict their ideology on their host country, when they become larger in number they become demanding, when they become a majority they force you to accept their ideology and you are subjugated to their ideology or you become persecuted to the point of death.

    Muslim organizations ( OIC) websites encourage Muslims to breed fast to take over countries where they are minorities.
    (According to reports , Rohingya muslim man is allowed to marry up to four women by islamic law ) Rohingya Population growth is increasing rapidly in Arakan State and this is real big threat to national security and stability in Burma.
    In Myanmar,Rohingya Muslims were breeding at 3 times faster than general Buddhist population. They also teach children Arabic only in schools and ask them to memorize quotes from Quran. The net result is that these Muslim children grow up to be hard criminals. So what is the solution:
    The Burmese people are generally peaceful, despite their civil war and military rule for years. However, they are hopefully turning things around and do not deserve to have their people tormented by the Rohingya Muslim culture.

  5. To appease Rakhine extremist Burmese central Government allowed them to do whatever they want with Rohingya Muslims, killings, burning and looting . But Rakhine extremists will not contend with whatever they receive, now they are demanding 50% revenue from GAS supply. Next step will be for separate Kingdom

  6. Myanma Star Forever

    Rakhine needs not 50% of the gas supply but 80% of it, because since independence in 1948, no Burmese government has taken any development initiative for Rakhine except exploiting its agricultural, water and natural resources. No government ever contributed one kyat for the development of the state except taking whatever is in the state to the central coffer and making hordes of illegal money. While illegal black market was encouraged, trade and commerce even with such neighbors as Bangladesh and India never took any real form. It rewarded the uniformed goons with illegal money since the black marketeers had a clandestine relations with the law enforcers. Meanwhile people had to buy even such daily commodities as rice at triple or sometimes even ten times more than the real price. Meanwhile the government agencies and people working there who controlled the demand and supply chain made money to the utter confusion and pauperization of the mass. The root cause of the Arakan unrest is deeply embedded in the half a century of neglect of the state. Unless it is done at a quicker step things will worsen, not look up. When the mouth is full people are peaceful, but to the hungry mouths, no lesson of peace is even welcome.

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