Human rights challenge Burma – says UN

Posted by on Aug 05, 2012 | Comments Off on Human rights challenge Burma – says UN

 

A UN special envoy says human rights remains the greatest challenge facing the Burmese administration.

Quintana completed a six-day investigation into sectarian violence in the western Rakhine state and more than a year of heavy fighting between troops and insurgents from an ethnic minority in the northern Kachin state.

The UN rapporteur called on the Burma government to review its 1982 Citizens Act, which barred citizenship for the Rohingya Muslim minority group in the Rakhine state, exposing them to discrimination, exploitation and abuses, leading to occasional outbreaks of violence.

‘Human rights will be the main challenge for Burma’s democratisation transition,’ Quintana told a press conference at Rangoon International Airport before his departure.

His inspection of Burma’s two trouble spots comes at a time of growing optimism in the West that the once-pariah nation is on the path to political and economic reform since a nominal civilian government came to power following an election in November 2010.

An estimated 800,000 to one million Rohingyas live in Rakhine. They are also denied the right to own property.

The rape and murder of a Buddhist Rakhine woman on May 28, allegedly by three Muslim Rohingya men, sparked a wave of sectarian violence in the state in June that left at least 77 dead and up to 90,000 people displaced.

The human rights group has accused government troops of participating in the killing and rape of Rohingyas, and at the very least of failing to stop the mayhem.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the death toll exceeded 90 and 100,000 were displaced.

The government insists that the Rohingya are descendents of Bengali migrant workers who came from neighbouring Bangladesh in the late 1800s and early 1900s when Burma was under British colonial rule.

In its 1982 Citizen Act, Burma denied the Rohingya community citizenship, although many have lived in Rakhine State for centuries.

Quintana will present his finding to the UN Security Council.

Three local staff members of the United Nations refugee agency were arrested in Rakhine, allegedly for joining the conflict.

‘The accusations against them were unfounded,’ said Quintana, who met the three UN staffers during his trip to Rakhine.

He also visited the Kachin state, where the army has been waging an offensive against insurgents from the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) since June 2011, displacing up to 70,000 civilians.

 

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