UN Envoy Meets Arakan Leaders to Discuss Migrant Crisis

By Lawi Weng 4 June 2015

LAW KHEE LAR, Karen State — Vijay Nambiar, the United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Burma, met with Arakan ethnic leaders to discuss the Bay of Bengal migration crisis, according to those present on Wednesday.

Nambiar spoke to 10 leaders from the Arakan Army, Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) and the Arakan National Council (ANC), at the sidelines of an ethnic summit currently underway in Karen State to discuss the draft text of the nationwide ceasefire agreement.

“He came to talk with Arakan leaders about the boat people issue, and the Rohingya problem,” said Saw Mya Razar Lin, the secretary of the ALP, who was present at the hour-long discussion.

“We found that UN is facing big pressure from the international community, for a situation they say is ethnic cleansing,” said ANC leader Htun Zaw. “He tried to determine how the problem could be solved, so he met us for an informal talk and asked us for our ideas.”

The Arakan leaders in turn asked Nambiar at the meeting to let armed group leaders participate in efforts to solve conflicts in the state, saying they were hampered by the lack of official recognition afforded to their organizations.

Nambiar declined to talk to the media, saying he was not able to discuss the details of what he also characterized as an informal meeting.

Arakan State was the site of renewed unrest in 2012 between Arakanese Buddhists and the minority Muslim Rohingya community, with 140,000 refugees forced to abandon their homes. Many have since undertaken the perilous journey across the Andaman Sea, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimating as many as 25,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants embarking from the area in the first three months of 2015.