Turkey’s Arakan Access Shows Govt Sincere: UN

By Lalit K Jha 15 August 2012

A top UN envoy says that the recent visit of Turkey Foreign Minister Ahmet Ahmet Davutoglu to violence-hit Arakan (Rakhine) State shows the Burmese government sincerely wants to solve the crisis.

“This has also demonstrated the willingness of the Myanmar government to cooperate with the international community to alleviate the suffering of its people. Such positive steps will help support Myanmar’s ongoing process of democratization and reform,” said Vijay Nambiar, the special advisor on Burma to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Referring to the recent fact-finding visit led by the Davutoglu, Nambiar said the trip was significant for international transparency. Senior officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation were also included.

The delegation visited camps where Muslims and Buddhists displaced by the violence are now living. The Turkish humanitarian aid distributed was among the first international humanitarian assistance accepted by Burma other than that provided by the world body.

Ban Ki-moon himself has also been in continuous contact with the Burmese authorities on this issue, said the UN, adding that it is committed to assisting Burma and its people in their reform and national reconciliation efforts, including overcoming imminent challenges, in cooperation with the international community.

A team from UK-based Channel 4 News became the first foreign broadcasters to visit Rohingya refugee camps in a report released on Tuesday. Journalists visited the village of Narzi outside Sittwe which once housed 10,000 Muslims but is now reduced to nothing but rubble.

“[The Rohingya] set fire to their own houses so that the wind would take the flames onto our homes,” said a local Buddhist man called Ko Ba Shwe. “They burned their own homes to try and burn down the whole community.”

While visiting the Rohingya camps far outside the state capital, one mother-of-three told the program: “We are living on rice and beans. When we were in town we could buy food for the kids, but now we can’t.”

The communal violence in western Burma has claimed at least 77 lives and left more than 90,000 displaced, according to official figures.

Meanwhile, the recently formed Burma Task force USA on Tuesday held a prayer vigil for victims of the violence in Burma. It appealed to Muslims in America to dedicate special prayers on the 27th night of Ramadan to victims of what they termed “genocide.”

“Since June of this year when a new wave of mass murder, mayhem and rapes were unleashed to further ethnically cleanse the Arakan region of Burma of Rohingya Muslims, Muslim activists and leaders in the US have been working to put pressure on the Burmese government to stop the pogrom,” said Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, chairman of Burma Task Force USA.

A day earlier, British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the Burmese government’s invitation of UN human rights envoy Tomas Quintana to the region and its cooperation during his subsequent visit.

“We join Mr Quintana in stressing the need to end the violence, to grant full and unhindered humanitarian access to the areas affected, to allow the affected communities to safely return to their homes and to support the restitution of property that was seriously damaged or destroyed,” said Hague.

“There is also a need to seek a long-term solution to the problems they face in a manner which recognizes their human rights, including their right to nationality and to take effective steps which prevents any further forced or involuntary displacement and which does not leave them permanently displaced.”

The Burmese Rohingya Organization UK welcomed Hague’s statement. “It is very good to see that the British government is speaking up,” said group President Tun Khin. “Other EU countries should also speak up on the grave human rights violations and great humanitarian disaster facing the Rohingya. Police and paramilitary forces are still arresting Rohingya in Buthidaung and Maungdaw.”