Burma: Curfew in fractious Rakhine state lifted days before new govt steps in
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Burma: Curfew in fractious Rakhine state lifted days before new govt steps in

THE outgoing Burmese president has lifted a nearly four-year curfew in the conflict-ridden western state of Rakhine, where clashes between the minority Rohingya Muslims and majority Buddhists have left hundreds of people dead.

Most of the 200 killed when the curfew was declared in 2012 were Muslims after tensions escalated with hardline Buddhist groups in the region.

State media reported President Thein Sein ordered the nighttime curfew to be lifted on Tuesday, as he felt it was no longer necessary.

According to the Myanmar News Agency, Thein Sein’s office had issued an ordinance to lift the emergency across the Rakhine state as no threats to the lives and property were found.

The ordinance, which Thein Sein signed, said: “It is found from the report by the Rakhine state government that the situation in Rakhine state can no longer pose dangers to the lives and property of the people.”

The curfew was imposed in June 2012 after widespread violence in the state, which displaced more than 100,000 people, mostly Rohingya, in addition to the loss of life.

The Rohingya minority has yet to be recognized by its government as citizens, although the latter denied discriminating against the stateless group.

The lifting of the curfew is one of the last decisions of President Thein Sein, who will hand over power on Thursday to a new government led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.

In response, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said the Burmese government’s lifting of the state of emergency in the region should promptly be followed by the end of abusive restrictions on ethnic Rohingya and other Muslims.

“President Thein Sein’s last minute repeal of Arakan State’s state of emergency puts the new government on firm footing to ensure basic freedoms for the long persecuted Rohingya minority,” said the group’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson in a press statement.

“It’s now up to the new government to work with local officials and security forces to ensure that ending the emergency translates into real improved respect for the rights of all the state’s people,” he added.

Additional reporting by Associated Press