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Govt failed to ensure justice after riots: UN chief

(Photo: AFP)

By Tim McLaughlin 
October 2, 2014

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accused the government of largely failing to take legal action against those responsible for outbreaks of religious violence over the past two years.

Fighting between Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine State in July and October 2012 left around 200 dead and 140,000 displaced, while serious conflict has also occurred in Meiktila, Mandalay, Lashio and elsewhere.

Yet those responsible for the clashes have not been brought to justice, Mr Ban said in his annual report to the UN General Assembly.

“Legal proceedings against the perpetrators remain blocked,” he said. “[And] the suffering and complaints of the affected people, especially the Muslim communities in the internally displaced persons camps, whose basic rights have been severely curtailed, remain largely unassuaged.”

Police forces have routinely rounded up dozens of suspects in public shows of force following outbreaks of violence. However, rights groups say these mass arrests have largely targeted Muslim men and other individuals involved in the violence have not been prosecuted.

Presidential spokesperson and Minister for Information U Ye Htut declined to comment on the specifics of the report as he had not read it in its entirety. He did say, however, that the government welcomed the secretary-general’s acknowledgment that progress had been made in Rakhine State and Myanmar more broadly.

Mr Ban has regularly expressed concern about the conflict in Rakhine State, saying just last week that he was “deeply troubled” by the continued rift between the Buddhist and Muslim communities. He also called for the government to address the citizenship status of Rohingya Muslims, who are not recognised as citizens of Myanmar under the current country’s current legal framework.

The government has said it will only consider assessing their claims to citizenship if they agree to be called Bengali rather than Rohingya.

Mr Ban’s comments contrasted with those of the Myanmar delegation at the General Assembly. Last week it began lobbying to be dropped from the UN’s human rights agenda, arguing that reforms undertaken by President U Thein Sein’s government mean it should no longer be singled out.

Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin told officials at the UN General Debate on September 29 that the country had addressed “all major concerns related to human rights”.
The UN General Assembly has adopted resolutions against Myanmar for its poor human rights record every year since 1992.

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