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Burma Vows to Protect Aid Workers in Rakhine State

Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) staff wait at Sittwe Airport to return to Rangoon, in Sittwe, March 28, 2014.

April 9, 2014

The Burmese government has promised to protect and cooperate with international aid agencies, whose workers were forced to flee western Rakhine state following riots.

Buddhist mobs last month attacked facilities belonging to several relief groups providing critical aid to the tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims in displacement camps in Rakhine.

The government was criticized for not doing enough to protect the workers, as well as refusing to allow many of them to return when the riots were over, cutting off supplies for the camps.

Following a stern response from the U.N. and other foreign officials, the Burmese government said it will provide the aid groups with "full security services and will cooperate with them on all levels."

In a statement, Burma, which is also kown as Myanmar, vowed to "expose the ringleaders" and others involved in the Rakhine attacks, which it acknowledged were worsened partly by what it called the "sluggish" response of authorities.

The statement, posted on the Burmese president's website said 16 homes, 15 warehouses, 14 vehicles, 2 watercraft, 29 motorcycles, and office equipment were damaged in the attacks.

It said an investigation found that instigators in the attack were angered by an aid worker who took down a Buddhist flag outside her home. Many local Buddhists had already complained that foreign aid groups have given preferential treatment to Rohingya.

The U.N. views the Rohingya as one of the world's most persecuted minorities. Not only are they often the subject of anti-Muslim prejudice, they are also denied citizenship and many other basic rights by the government.

In a statement earlier this week, U.N. envoy to Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana said the Rakhine developments are the latest in a "long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya community, which could amount to crimes against humanity."

Buddhist-Muslim violence erupted in Rakhine state in 2012 and has since spread to other parts of the country. The fighting has killed at least 240 people and displaced 140,000 others, mainly Rohingya.

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