US, UN React to Arakan Violence

The UN Human Rights Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana, pictured here in August addressing reporters at Yangon International Airport, says it is imperative that the Burmese government pursues a policy of integration and long-term reconciliation between the Rohingya and the Rakhine in Arakan State. (PHOTO: Reuters)

The UN Human Rights Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana, pictured here in August addressing reporters at Yangon International Airport, says it is imperative that the Burmese government pursues a policy of integration and long-term reconciliation between the Rohingya and the Rakhine in Arakan State. (PHOTO: Reuters)

WASHINGTON—The United States on Thursday urged all parties including the Burmese government to immediately take steps to halt the ongoing communal violence in Arakan State, and announced an additional humanitarian contribution of US $2.73 million for the displaced persons in the region.

“The United States is deeply concerned about reports this week of increasing ethnic and sectarian violence in Burma’s Rakhine [Arakan] State, and urges parties to exercise restraint and immediately halt all attacks,” the US State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference.

“We join the international community and call on authorities within the country, including the government, civil and religious leaders, to take immediate action to halt the ongoing violence, to grant full humanitarian access to the affected areas, and to begin a dialogue towards a peaceful resolution, ensuring expeditious and transparent investigations into these and previous incidents,” she said.

The situation in Arakan State underscores the critical need for mutual respect among all ethnic and religious groups, and for serious efforts to achieve national reconciliation in Burma, she said urging people of Burma to work together towards a peaceful, prosperous and democratic country that respects the rights of all of its diverse people.

Responding to questions, Nuland said the violence in Arakan State has been on the agenda in all of the conversations that the US has had with the Burmese, including last week’s Human Rights dialogue.

US officials have made five visits down to northern Arakan State since the outbreak of the violence in June, she noted. “That, in and of itself, is remarkable if you consider where Burma was a year ago, that they are allowing not only us, but they are allowing other international observers and UN organizations to try to assist them in getting a handle on this. It’s obviously a very difficult problem, and we are working with them on various ways to address it,” she said.

“On October 19th, we announced an additional humanitarian contribution of 2.73 million for displaced people in Rakhine. Two million of that will go through UNHCR and 730,000 will go through UNICEF for water, sanitation, hygiene, and nutritional support. So we are doing what we can to be helpful, and we are in constant conversation with Burmese authorities,” Nuland said.

“But at the root of this problem is the extreme poverty and lack of opportunity that plagues both communities in Rakhine state. So over the longer term, it’s going to be a matter of the government providing a better quality of life for both communities there,” she said.

However, she refrained from responding to questions about whether these events would have an impact on the further lifting of sanctions on Burma. “I’m not going to get ahead of where we are, which is to try to work with Burmese authorities on ways to address both the short-term issues and the longer-term issues. As we have said, there are communal issues on both sides; there are issues of poverty on both sides. So these have to be worked out over time. But I’m not going to make any predictions about where this is going to go,” Nuland said.

Meanwhile at the UN headquarters in New York, the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, said that the latest outbreak of communal violence in five townships in Northern Arakan is deeply troubling.

“The widening mistrust between the communities is being exploited by militant and criminal elements to cause large-scale loss of human lives, material destruction, displaced families as well as fear, humiliation and hatred affecting the people from all walks of life,” said a statement issued by his spokesman.

Noting that there is clear recognition at the highest political levels in Burma of the need to contain this communal violence, Ban called on the authorities to take urgent and effective action to bring under control all cases of lawlessness.

“The vigilante attacks, targeted threats and extremist rhetoric must be stopped. If this is not done, the fabric of social order could be irreparably damaged and the reform and opening up process being currently pursued by the government is likely to be jeopardized,” the statement said.

Observing that Burma is striving to be an example of tolerance and moderation in Asia and the world, the UN statement said such events must not be allowed to tarnish its efforts.

Expressed concern that more lives have been lost in the violence, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, said that it is vital for the government and all concerned to prevent further violence and to defuse tensions between the two communities.

Quintana presented a report on the situation of human rights in Burma to the UN General Assembly, which among other things, the situation in Arakan State where violence between communities has left scores dead, over 850 people detained and tens of thousands displaced.

“Buddhist and Muslim communities continue to suffer from the violence in Rakhine State, so it is imperative that the [Burmese] government pursues a policy of integration and long-term reconciliation between the two communities. This will necessarily involve addressing the underlying causes of the tensions, which includes the endemic discrimination against the Rohingya community,” Quintana said in his report.

“Human rights considerations need to shape the process of economic growth, legislative reform and institutional change, while also guiding responses to ongoing serious human rights situations, including in Rakhine and Kachin States,” he stressed.

4 Responses to US, UN React to Arakan Violence

  1. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    The usage of words from the international community’s while expressing their concerns over the communal riots in Rakhine State of Burma has to be very careful should they want to give effective helps in calming the hostile situation down before long term solution to the crisis has its chance to welcome international involvement. Anyone who would like to be a part of solution to communal riots in Rakhine State need to have the trust from Burmese people by listening more of their concerns and recognize the existence of influx of illegal migrants into Burma from Bangladesh. 

    Not all of Bengali have lived generation after generation, but some have and that has been well recognized within the Burmese society. The denial of suffering that Rakhine have been forced to endure at the hands of Bengali immigrants will never get the trust from Rakhine and Burmese people at large, breeding more hatred among the Burmese against all Bengali residents in Rakhine State and shutting all possible chances of accepting mediators from the outside world. 

    Tolerance and submissiveness is a complete different world that resilient Burmese are well aware of and used to it in their on-going fight for liberation of Burma from tyranny over the period of  a half century.  Preaching tolerance carelessly could be interpreted in a wrong way as a drive force of coercion to Burmese people to their submission to condescending tone of outside world in Burmese internal affair.  

    Only when international community started to recognize the existence of influx of illegal immigrants in Burma as the epic of communal riots, the trust of Burmese to international communities will be built up, allowing tolerance to be separated among the Burmese that will lead to finding a skeleton key to open the door of honest conversation on the communal riots in Rakhine State of Burma. Once international community has earned the trust of Burmese people, it can easily turn current tragedy of communal riots to become a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  2.   How can we spin it this time?  Great chance for master spinner to make it look good among the singe.

    Rights Dialogue with Burma ‘Very Positive’: US

    October 18, 2012 

    “We are confident that we have
    now an open channel with the government of Burma to discuss human rights and to
    continue to work on bringing them where they want to be in terms of human
    rights standards for their government,” the US State Department spokesperson,
    Victoria Nuland



    Ki-moon Calls for Further Sanctions Rollback

    April 30, 2012

    “We know that Myanmar can meet
    the challenges of reconciliation, democracy and development but it will take
    the full determination and your common leadership and partnership. 

    “… the underlying causes of the tensions, …” is the racist  most chauvinistic Bamar Sit-tut is sucked up by people falling over each other to do so all over the world for rape and pillage of the country, Burma. Thein Sein is now bullet proof. He gets away with murder!

  3. Hey Tomas Ojea Quintana, please STOP your BIAS one side. You went to Rakhine and made an assessment that was unfair and biased toward one side (Rohingyas Muslim). Why did you neglect innocent Rakhines and Buddhists? We don’t insult Burma citizenship law 1982. Why illegal Bengali Rohingya got license to DESTROY and KILL to Rakhines? Why you agree and allow Bengali Rohingyas to do on terrorism? You never say that Bengali Rohingyas are no good. You always say that Rakhines are no good. You also a hypocrite. We all Myanmar hate hypocrisy on your bias in Rakhine, Myanmar. By the way, if Bengali Rohingyas come and stay in your country WITHOUT birth certificates, WITHOUT documents, WITHOUT passports, WITHOUT visa, will you accept to stay them in your country? Will you give them as CITIZENS (such as Australians, Canadians, US, UK, etc) of your country? Will you accept the people who do criminals??? We are very sorry about your bias and misunderstanding about Rakhine riots.

  4. In a perfect world a government needs to step down if it can’t provide the security and well being of its own citizens. Thein Sein government must step down.

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