UN Concerned About Muslim-Buddhist Clashes in Burma

By Edith M. Lederer 25 December 2012

UNITED NATIONS—The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution late on Monday welcoming positive changes in Burma but expressing serious concern at an upsurge of sectarian violence between Muslims and Buddhists in strife-torn Arakan state.

The resolution adopted by the 193-member world body urges government action to improve the situation of the Rohingya Muslim minority “and to protect all their human rights, including their right to a nationality.”

There is widespread resentment of the Rohingya community, whom many in Burma regard as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh out to steal their land. The worst communal violence in a generation in June, and again in late October, between Arakan Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims killed about 200 people and left at least 110,000 displaced, the vast majority of them Muslims.

The resolution noted substantial efforts by Burma’s government toward political reform, democratization, national reconciliation and improvements in human rights. But it expressed concern about continuing violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

It called on the government to continue the process of releasing political prisoners, to identify those who remain imprisoned, and to take the measures needed to end impunity.

The General Assembly urged the government “to accelerate its efforts to address discrimination, human rights violations, violence, displacement and economic deprivation affecting various ethnic minorities,” singling out the Rohingyas and Kachin.

It called for measures to address the continuing armed conflict in Kachin State in northern Burma where ethnic Kachin insurgents seeking more autonomy from the government are fighting against the army.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said earlier this month that for nearly six months, the United Nations has not been able to provide assistance to almost 40,000 people in Kachin because it is not permitted to go to areas controlled by the rebels.

The European Union-sponsored resolution was adopted by consensus, with the assembly president banging his gavel.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said earlier this month after the resolution’s approval by the assembly’s human rights committee that she was “particularly pleased by the constructive approach by the government of Myanmar in working closely on the text with the EU,” referring to Burma by its official name.