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UN expert raises concerns over withdrawal of humanitarian aid in Myanmar

[JURIST] Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Monday expressed concern [press release] about the deteriorating human rights situation in the country's Rakhine State [JURIST news archive]. Following recent attacks [Reuters report] on international aid groups, aid workers have begun an evacuation of the area. The withdrawal of individuals providing health services, water and food to displacement camps, Quintana warns, "will only increase the vulnerability of this community." He then urged the prompt return of all humanitarian workers so that their life-saving efforts could continue. Quintana also addressed one issue at the root of the violence: self-identification of the Rohingya for the census. He stated that the government's decision to not include this ethnic category in the census "is not in compliance with international human rights standard."

This is the latest in the OHCHR's critique of Myanmar's human rights situation. In January Quintana, along with the UN humanitarian chief, called for an immediate investigation [JURIST report] by authorities following reports of alarming levels of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state. 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. 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.

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