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Myanmar opens new probe into deadly sectarian clashes

Myanmar president Thein Sein [BBC profile] on Friday announced the creation of a 27-member commission tasked with investigating the cause of the sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists. The clashes, which began in May and carried on into June in the western Rakhine state, were responsible for at least 83 deaths and the displacement of thousands of nearby civilians. The results of the committee's probe are expected by September 17 and should propose solutions to the long-standing strife between the two communities. UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon welcomed the news [press release]:

This commission is comprised of a representative cross section of national figures in the country. It could make important contributions to restoring peace and harmony in the state, and in creating a conducive environment for a more inclusive way forward to tackle the underlying causes of the violence, including the condition of the Muslim communities in Rakhine. This will be integral to any reconciliation process."
Additionally, Ban pledged UN support to Myanmar in overcoming its "imminent challenges."

Myanmar has been unsuccessful in resolving the sectarian violence prevalent in the country despite attempts to bring peace to the communities. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused government forces [JURIST report] of human rights violations following the clashes. Last month spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [official website] Melissa Fleming reported that 10 UN staff and aid workers had been arrested [JURIST report] in the northwestern Rakhine state and three of them are facing unknown criminal charges. In June HRW had urged [JURIST report] the Chinese government to provide basic food and shelter needs to refugees from Myanmar after finding refugee abuse. Earlier that month HRW also called on [JURIST report] Bangladesh to open its borders to Myanmar refugees a day after it demanded Myanmar ensure the safety of communities in the Arakan State subject to the violence between Arakan Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims. In March HRW reported [JURIST report] that violence and rights abuses continue in Myanmar's northern state of Kachin due to the conflict between Myanmar's armed forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) [BBC backgrounder]. During the same month, Tomas Ojea Quintana [official profile], the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar urged [JURIST report] the country to ensure the protection of human rights. In November, Human rights group Partners Relief and Development [advocacy website] issued [JURIST report] a report [text, PDF, graphic content] which alleged that the army may be committing war crimes including torture and forced labor against ethnic communities in Kachin state.

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