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UN top envoy visits unrest-hit Myanmar

Source : Agencies | Sittwe | 14 Jun 2012

A top UN envoy arrived in strife-torn western Myanmar yesterday as security forces grappled with sectarian violence that has left dozens dead and hundreds of homes burned down.

A state of emergency has been declared in Rakhine state, which has been rocked by a wave of rioting and arson, posing a major test for the reformist government which took power last year.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed in many areas.

Vijay Nambiar, UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s special adviser on Myanmar, flew into the capital of Rakhine to visit Maungdaw, a town near the border with Bangladesh where the violence flared on Friday.

He was accompanied by Myanmar’s Border Affairs Minister General Thein Htay and 15 Muslim religious leaders from Yangon.

“We’re here to observe and assess how we can continue to provide support to Rakhine,” Ashok Nigam, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator who was also in the group, told AFP.

An uneasy calm pervaded Sittwe, which has been rattled by gunfire in recent days and was drenched by heavy rains yesterday.

Local residents have been seen roaming the streets wielding knives, swords and sticks, while people from both the mainly Buddhist ethnic Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities have been forced to flee their homes.
The Buddhists and Rohingya have both accused each other of violent attacks.

The UN has evacuated most of its foreign staff from Maungdaw, which is its main base in the state and has a large population of stateless Rohingya Muslims.

Meanwhile, Rohingya Muslims living in refugee camps in Bangladesh called yesterday for democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi to speak up for them and help end their persecution.
Bangladesh, which shares a 200-km border with Myanmar, is home to an estimated 300,000 Rohingya refugees, about a tenth of whom live in squalid conditions in UN-assisted camps.

Around 25 people have been killed and a further 41 wounded in five days of unrest between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, a Myanmar official told AFP on Tuesday.

“Our appeal is to the UN, foreign nations, the Myanmar government and especially to Suu Kyi,” Mohammad Islam, leader of Rohingya refugees living in Nayapara camp in the Bangladesh border town of Teknaf, said.

“Aung San Suu Kyi hasn’t done or said anything for us, yet the Rohingyas including my parents campaigned for her in the 1990 elections. Like most other Burmese people, she is silent about the rights of Rohingya,” he added.

Hundreds of Rohingya, many of them women and children, have attempted to flee to Bangladesh in rickety boats in recent days, but have been turned away.

Border guards yesterday said they had refused entry to another three vessels, although a single six-week-old baby girl found floating alone in a boat was rescued and placed with a local family.