Thursday, August 2, 2012

Burma’s VP says racial, religious tensions caused Rakhin unrest

Thursday, 02 August 2012 13:16 Mizzima News

Burma’s Vice President Sai Mauk Kham has told a government committee coordinating relief in Rakhine State that violence there was based on racial and religious tensions and a long-term solution was needed.

Burma's Vice President Sai Mauk Kham Photo: President's office

A solution should be “tackled carefully,” he said, “as there is an unbalanced population ratio. Bengalis constitute 94 per cent and Rakhine nationals six percent of the population in Maungtaw and Buthidaung,” the two worst communities, he said, according to a report in The New Light of Myanmar, the state-run newspaper, on Tuesday.

He said it is important to maintain security and regional peace and stability or development could not be carried out in the area. Rakhine State is one of the poorest areas of Burma.

Muslim governments and human rights groups have criticized Burma’s response to the sectarian unrest in recent weeks, and a Human Rights Watch report on Wednesday said the government security forces have undertaken systematic abuses against Rohingya Muslims.

Sai Kham said the government has been cooperating with domestic and international non-governmental organizations by opening relief camps providing shelters, food and healthcare services. Relief groups have called for greater access to the area and full access to Rohingya communities.

On Thursday, United Nations Human Rights Envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana is completing a two-day tour of Rakhine State on a fact-finding mission.

On Monday, the government said it had “exercised maximum restraint in order to restore law and order in those particular places in Rakhine state, ” in a foreign ministry statement.

The statement rejected the accusation that abuses and excessive use of force were made by the authorities in dealing with the situation, saying, “The unfortunate incidents are confined to a few townships in Rakhine state as it constitutes an inter-communal violence relating only to the some portion of the population in the state.”

The situation of law and order in Rakhine state is improving, the authorities said people sheltered in relief camps are gradually returning to the places, it said.

The deadly unrest and violence in Rakhine State started with the rape and murder of a Rakhine ethnic woman by three men in Kyauknimaw village on May 28, setting off a series of deadly reprisals and clashes between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists.

According to the ministry statement, 77 people from both communities were killed with 109 people injured. A total of 4,822 houses, 17 mosques, 15 monasteries and three schools were burned down.

The declaration of a state of emergency in the state along with imposition of curfews in six townships has been in force since June 10.

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