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Myanmar: Pillay concerned about human rights situation in Rakhine state

GENEVA (27 July 2012) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday raised serious concerns about ongoing human rights violations in Myanmar’s Rakhine state after the violence between the Buddhist and Muslim communities there, urging a prompt, independent investigation.

The latest instability in Rakhine state was triggered on 28 May, when an ethnic Rakhine woman was raped and murdered. This was followed by the killing of 10 Muslims by an unidentified mob on 3 June. According to official figures, over 70,000 people have been displaced in the ensuing violence. At least 78 have died, although unofficial estimates are higher.

“We have been receiving a stream of reports from independent sources alleging discriminatory and arbitrary responses by security forces, and even their instigation of and involvement in clashes,” Pillay said. “Reports indicate that the initial swift response of the authorities to the communal violence may have turned into a crackdown targeting Muslims, in particular members of the Rohingya community."

The High Commissioner said the crisis highlighted the long-standing and systemic discrimination against the Rohingya Muslim community, who are not recognised by the State and remain stateless.

“The Government has a responsibility to prevent and punish violent acts, irrespective of which ethnic or religious group is responsible, without discrimination and in accordance with the rule of law,” Pillay said, expressing dismay at the derogatory language used against the Rohingya by state media, some independent media, and by some users of social networking websites.

She noted earlier commitments by the Government to conduct an investigation, and a recent fact-finding mission by the Myanmar Human Rights Commission.

"I also welcome the Government's decision to allow the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar access to Rakhine State during his planned mission to Myanmar next week. It is important that those affected from all communities in Rakhine are able to speak freely to the Special Rapporteur," the High Commissioner said. "But while he will be able to make an initial assessment during his one-day visit, this is no substitute for a fully-fledged independent investigation."

She also called on all national leaders to speak out against discrimination, the exclusion of minorities and racist attitudes, and in support of equal rights for all in Myanmar, and stressed that the United Nations was making an effort to protect and assist all communities in Rakhine State.

“Prejudice and violence against members of ethnic and religious minorities run the risk of dividing the country in its commendable national reconciliation efforts, undermine national solidarity, and upset prospects of peace-building," the High Commissioner said.

ENDS

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 79 506 1088 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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