Senior UN Official Wraps Up Arakan Trip

By Lawi Weng 10 September 2014

RANGOON — A senior UN official ended a three-day trip to Arakan State on Wednesday, after visiting camps for internally displaced people and meeting with Arakanese leaders to assess ways in which the United Nations can promote sustainable development in their communities.

Haoliang Xu, the UN assistant secretary-general and Asia regional director for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), arrived in the western Burma state on Monday. He met with Buddhist and Muslim community leaders and pledged to continue providing humanitarian aid.

“On his first day, he met us in Aung Mingalar,” said Aung Win, a Sittwe-based rights activist for the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority group. Aung Mingalar is a quarter in the state capital where Muslims have been held in ghetto-like conditions since inter-communal violence broke out in 2012.

“After that he went to Mrauk-U and Minbya towns,” the activist added.

Xu reportedly asked community leaders to assess the political and economic situation in the state.

“We told him our people in Aung Mingalar still have not received rice yet. And we told him that we disagree with the national verification scheme because the government has not been transparent,” Aung Win said. The government is attempting to verify the citizenship of people in predominately Rohingya areas of Arakan State, and in doing so has pressured respondents to identify as Bengali.

Xu may share these concerns with Burmese government officials when he travels to Naypyidaw, where he is set to meet with Vice President Sai Mauk Kham before departing the country on Friday, according to a statement by the UNDP. It is his first official visit to Burma since he was appointed one year ago.

During the trip to Arakan State, Xu also met with Arakan Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn, the UNDP statement said. On Tuesday he visited IDP camps in Sittwe and Pauktaw townships, and on Wednesday he inaugurated a bridge construction and opened a food bank in Ye Chan Pyin village, Sittwe. The UNDP is also providing fishing nets and other supplies for Arakanese fishermen in the village.

“It seems the UN is aware that they need to provide for our people as well,” said Tha Pwae, an Arakanese leader from Sittwe and a member of the state’s Emergency Coordination Committee. “In the past, they gave to only one side, and this was why there were ongoing problems in our region.”

Earlier this year, aid organizations in the state were attacked by Arakanese mobs who accused them of favoring the Rohingya. Aid workers say their assistance has always been allocated on the basis of need.

The inter-communal violence between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in 2012 left about 140,000 people homeless, most of whom were Rohingya.