Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Buddhist monks demonstrate during Quintana’s arrival in Rakhine State

Wednesday, 01 August 2012 13:43 Mizzima News

Buddhist monks demonstrated in Maungdaw with signs urging UN agencies not to discriminated between Buddhist and Muslims when providing aid, on the same day UN human rights expert Tomas Ojea Quintana arrived in Rakhine State on a two-day, fact-finding mission.

A local monk told Voice of America’s Burmese service that about 100 Buddhists staged a peaceful protest urging the UN refugee agency UNHCR not to discriminate when providing aid to tens of thousands people who fled their homes due to the riots in June.

UN Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana talks to Rangoon media as he leaves a press briefing on the situation in Rakhine State on Monday, July 30, 2012. He left for Rakhine State on a fact-finding mission on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

On Tuesday, Quintana met with local officials at a Maungdaw administrative office and he visited temporary refugee shelters including a high school and a monastery. He also visited Buthidaung, a border town with Bangladesh.

Quintana declined to answer journalists' questions about what he found, said The Associated Press.

Earlier, Quintana made it clear that his fact-finding trip is a priority of his seven-day visit to Burma. Before his trip, he called the violence in Rakhine State one of the "challenges" facing Burma despite its recent political reforms. He will also visit Kachin State on Friday, where fighting is ongoing between armed rebels and government troops.

The U.N. has a direct interest in the Rakhine issue because five workers for the UN refugee agency are among 858 people still detained in connection with the unrest. Five other international workers are also in detention.

The aid workers have been accused of taking part in the violence and “setting fire to villages,” Border Affairs Minister Lt. Gen. Thein Htay told reporters earlier.

On Tuesday, Indonesia joined the countries expressing concern about the treatment of the Rohingya. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said his country would engage diplomatically with Burma to try to stop the violence.

Indonesia said previously it would raise the matter at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Saudi Arabia scheduled for mid-August.

Some Rakhine Buddhists accuse the UNHCR of having a pro-Muslim bias because they said the UN agency recruited most of its Rakhine personnel from Muslim communities, said a VOA report.

Foreign human rights groups have accused Burmese security forces of committing abuses against Rohingyas and other minority Muslims in response to the riots. Burma has rejected the accusation and insisted that its forces exercised “maximum restraint.”

Burma's government refuses to recognize the country's estimated 800,000 Rohingyas as an ethnic group and denies them citizenship and ordinary rights. Many Burmese consider them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The issue has prompted many Muslim groups to voice support for the Rohingyas and to call for a credible independent investigation into the unrest, which has claimed 77 lives, according to government figures.

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