Saturday, 30 March 2013 20:22 AFP
Myanmar on Friday strongly rejected comments by a senior United Nations official linking the state with recent anti-Muslim riots that have left at least 40 people dead and seen mosques razed in several towns.
The UN's special rapporteur on Myanmar human rights Tomas Ojea Quintana on Thursday said he had "received reports of state involvement in some of the acts of violence", prompting the rebuttal from Myanmar's presidential spokesman.
"I totally reject what Quintana's saying about some sections of the state being involved in violence," Ye Htut said in comments posted on his Facebook page.
"It is regrettable that Mr Quintana has commented on the situation, based on second hand information without correctly studying the situation on the ground." Buddhist mobs have marauded through several towns in central Myanmar since religious violence erupted on March 20, prompting the government to impose emergency rule and curfews in some areas.
The situation appeared to have calmed on Friday, a day after President Thein Sein vowed a tough response to those behind the violence which he attributed to "political opportunists and religious extremists."
In his statement Quintana accused "the military, police and other civilian law enforcement forces" of "standing by while atrocities have been committed ... this may indicate direct involvement by some sections of the state or implicit collusion".
Security forces fired warning shots on Wednesday to disperse rioters and dozens of people have been detained. However, Muslim leaders have criticized the security forces for failing to stop the attacks.
According to the United Nations, the recent clashes—which were apparently triggered by an argument in a gold shop that turned into a riot—have seen some 12,000 people displaced.
It is the worst sectarian strife since violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the western state of Rakhine last year left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced.
Myanmar's Muslims—largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent—account for an estimated four per cent of the population of roughly 60 million.
For more background:
- Myanmar must take ‘bold steps’ to tackle unrest: UN envoy
- Thein Sein warns: ‘I will not hesitate to use force’