BURMESE de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi should visit the Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships in the country’s troubled Rakhine state to reassure the civilian population that they will be protected, the United Nations said amid widespread claims of human rights abuses by government security forces there.
Vijay Nambiar, the special adviser to the UN secretary-general on Burma, said the Burmese government must offer concrete responses to the ongoing violence in the region to resolve the crisis involving the stateless ethnic Rohingya community in the northwestern state.
“The refusal by the Myanmar authorities to take a strong stance against hardliners, and the adoption of a generally defensive rather than proactive approach to providing security to the local population, have caused frustration locally and disappointment internationally,” he said in a statement late Thursday.
UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights office (OHCHR) recently expressed alarm over reports of “serious rights violations” in Rakhine that cite allegations of extrajudicial killings, burning down of homes, arbitrary arrests and sexual violence.
Longstanding discrimination by the Buddhist majority against the Muslim Rohingya in the northern Rakhine state exploded into bloody violence in 2012, leaving more than 100,000 people, mostly Rohingya, in displacement camps.
The violence started again in October this year after Burmese security forces began pouring into Rakhine, resulting in the deaths of least 86 people while some 30,000 were displaced. The latest escalation was triggered by a series of attacks on border guard posts by what the government says was carried out by Rohingya insurgent groups.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who took power eight months ago, has been the subject of widespread criticism claiming she had not done enough to help the Rohingya minority.
Vijay said while taking the necessary security measures to curb any fresh outbreak of attacks by criminal elements in the region, Burmese authorities must also take steps to build confidence and reassurance among the local population that their security, dignity and well-being will be protected.
He added those who have fled or suffered displacement should be allowed to return to their homes.
“Senior government leaders need to send a strong message underlining their determination to protect all residents regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender or status,” he said.
“In this volatile situation, it is everyone’s responsibility to handle allegations and rumors with great care.”
During her official visit to Singapore earlier this month, Suu Kyi said national reconciliation is “unavoidably important” for the country to attract investment, but gave no specifics on how her government intends to resolve violence and discrimination against the marginalised community.
Suu Kyi, who swept into power last year after wresting the government from decades of junta rule, said that national reconciliation is also not “a matter of choice. It’s unavoidable.”
The accounts of military attacks against the Rohingya community have caused thousands of people to march in protest in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in recent weeks.