Tomas Quintana, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Burma, said on Thursday that Burma's leaders are delaying crucial decisions on ways to reduce tensions in volatile ethnic regions, as a fifth day of sectarian violence and tensions continued between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in the western region of the country.
“At the same time, we see that they are not at this point taking the proper decisions toward a real solution,” he said about the Rohingya problem. “I don't see a real analysis of the situation.”
Quintana said a special investigation committee set up by Burma’s president to look at the causes of the tensions in the west had been expected to produce a report next month, but the report appears to have been delayed. A prominent committee member said last week the committee has met a wall of resistance “on both sides” to provide reliable information for its investigation.
“So again we see that those decisions that are needed to be taken immediately to control the situation, to start addressing the root causes of the problem, are not being taken,” Quintana said, according to a report by Reuters on Thursday.
The latest violence in Rakhine State includes commercially important Kyaukpyu, where a multi-billion-dollar China-Burma pipeline starts. Quintana described the situation there as “critical.”
Quintana called for the government to find a way to end the discrimination against the Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship in Burma although many have lived there for generations.
“I believe that the government must address the underlying causes of the tension and conflict between Buddhist and Muslim communities there, including the impact of deep-rooted prejudice and discriminatory practices based on ethnicity and religion,” he said.
“In this respect I urge the government to take measures to address the endemic discrimination against the Rohingya community and ensure respect for their human rights, which should include a review of the 1982 Citizenship Act.”
Quintana said he was concerned about recent public demonstrations against Rohingyas, calling these a “dangerous” development. Many of the demonstrations are led by Buddhist monks, who carry great respect in Burma.
Quintana said he welcomed the government's cease-fire deals with ethnic groups but voiced “ongoing concerns over continuing allegations of human rights violations in conflict-affected ethnic border areas.”
“This includes Kachin State, where I have received allegations of attacks against civilian populations, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, internal displacement, torture, ongoing use of land mines, the recruitment of child soldiers as well as forced labor,” he said.
He added that the violations in Kachin State were being committed by all parties to the conflict.
Quintana urged the government to ensure the United Nations had access to all conflict-torn areas of Burma.
He also appealed to the Burmese government to free a UN staff member and several employees of international nongovernmental organizations who have been in detention for months after they were arrested during an earlier round of violence in Rakhine State this year.