Asean has asked Burma for a “full explanation” on the sectarian unrest in Arakan State, Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said on Wednesday.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is seeking an explanation from Asean-member Burma about recent ethnic violence targeting the minority Rohingya group, mostly Muslims, that erupted in June claiming up to 78 lives and destroying up to 3,000 homes and businesses.
“There will be a full explanation from Myanmar because this is an important and critical issue for Asean as a community,” said Surin Pitsuwan.
He said a response would be given at the United Nations headquarters in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Surin said Asean had talked with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, but said, “We haven’t heard anything specific or concrete on the matter.”
Burma does not recognize Muslim Rohingyas as citizens. Bangladesh, where up to 30,000 Rohingyas live in UN refugee camps, says the issue is Burma’s problem, and it wants the Rohingyas repatriated.
Burma’s President Thein Sein has asked the UN to provide for the Rohingyas in resettlement camps or to help repatriate them to third countries, saying they are not part of Burma’s ethnic minorities. The UN says Rohingyas are among the most discriminated ethnic minorities in the world.
Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday called for laws to protect the rights of the country’s ethnic minorities in her inaugural address to the fledgling Parliament.
The Rohingya issue is likely to prove to be one of the most serious challenges confronting the newly elected government of Thein Sein. Most Burmese, who are mainly Buddhist, believe the minority is not Burmese. The issue has festered in the country for decades, with periodic violence and clashes between the two groups.