Monday, 5 November 2012

UN envoy 'disgusted' by discrimination against Burma's Rohingyas

A UN special envoy to Burma hopes the government's "policy of discrimination" against Muslim Rohingyas will be addressed at the Asia-Europe Meeting Summit (ASEM) in Laos.

It is estimated around 4,600 homes have been burnt and more than 100,000 people displaced since clashes broke out between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in June.

There are an estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in Burma, but the government sees them as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma, Tom├ís Ojea Quintana , has told Connect Asia he is "disgusted" by the way the Rohingya community has been treated.

"My assessment after five years holding this that there is a pattern of endemic discrimination against the Rohingya," he said.

He says he hopes Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and other regional leaders will take action to end the "national sentiment" of prejudice against the community.

"It's also clear for me there are a group of hardliners in the government trying to apply directly this policy of discrimination through concentrated measures on the ground against the Rohingya," he said.

"My concern is that it is not clear where President Thein Sein is standing in this respect."

During his last visit to Burma in August, Mr Quintana says he was informed the Burmese government had been developing a policy to gradually integrate the Rohingya into the wider community.

"[But] these are only statements," he said.

He says there needs to be a clearer indication of what measures will be taken on the ground to end the conflict.
'Deeply concerned'

The president of the European Commission has also called for an end to communal killings in Burma following talks with President Thein Sein.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso is the latest in a series of Western officials to visit Burma after a quasi-civilian government led by Thein Sein took charge last year.

"We are deeply concerned by these events and by the consequences for the reforms and democratisation of the country," he said in a speech.

"We hope that all religious leaders will call for restraint."

Mr Barroso says the European Union stands ready to offer $US5 million ($4 million euros) for immediate humanitarian needs, provided access to the affected areas is guaranteed.

His comments came after he met the Burmese president and held talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Violence in Rakhine is seen as a serious challenge to Burma's reforms, which have included Ms Suu Kyi's election to parliament and the release of hundreds of political prisoners.

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