The UN humanitarian chief on Thursday called for an immediate investigation [statement, PDF] by authorities following reports of alarming levels of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state. In a brief statement, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos stated:
I am deeply concerned about reports of alarming levels of violence, including the killing of many civilians and a policeman, in Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State, Myanmar. I ask the Government of Myanmar to take all necessary measures to ensure the full protection of all civilians and to enable safe and continued access by humanitarian staff to the affected areas in order to assess needs and provide emergency assistance to all those affected by the recent violence. I also ask the Government to immediately launch an impartial investigation into these events and to respect the rights of those arrested and detained in connection with this incident.Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official websites] have echoed [UN News Centre report] Amos' concerns.
In October Quintana warned [JURIST report] that sectarian violence between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State is contributing to wider anti-Muslim sentiments in Myanmar, threatening the positive changes undertaken by the country in the past two years. While Quintana acknowledged that Myanmar's government has demonstrated willingness to address the situation, he expressed concern that discriminatory acts against Muslims remain unattended. Earlier that month Quintana welcomed [JURIST report] the release of 56 prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, although he stressed the need for legislative reforms that would address the injustice against prisoners of conscience. In August Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Myanmar's government to revise its draft association laws [JURIST report], which, if enacted, would require nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to obtain official registration to operate and would impose criminal penalties on NGOs that failed to register. Earlier in August Quintana applauded [JURIST report] recent government efforts to encourage a culture of respect between clashing political and religious sects but recognized the need for increased government action on a wide array of issues. In July Quntana praised the release [JURIST report] of 73 prisoners of consciousness in Myanmar.