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Calls for ‘impartial and credible investigation’ in Rakhine State


The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said over the weekend that it hoped Bangladesh officials would change their mind and open its borders to the refugee crisis in western Rakhine State in Burma.

Bangladeshi Border Guard personnel keep watch at a wharf in Taknaf on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, following the religious violence in neighbouring Burma. Bangladeshi border guards have been turning back boats transporting Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Burma, officials said, as the U.N. refugee agency called for the border to be opened. Photo: AFPDuring a news briefing, U.N. spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters the U.N. “recognizes that for years, Bangladesh has been bearing the brunt of the forced displacement caused by earlier crises in Myanmar."

The situation in Rakhine State “remains fragile” following sectarian violence against both Muslims and Buddhist in which more than 50 people have been killed and thousands of homes burned, he said.

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have tried to flee by land and sea to Bangladesh to escape Rakhine State in western Burma, only to be turned back by border authorities.

The UN Agency stands ready to provide assistance and support to the governments and the peoples of Bangladesh and Burma in addressing the evolving humanitarian situation, del Buey said.

The U.N. secretary-general's special adviser for Burma, Vijay Nambiar, visited Rakhine State last week.

“He noted the government's prompt, firm and sensitive response to the serious disturbances in Rakhine State,” said del Buey.

“Nambiar called for a full, impartial and credible investigation of the disturbances to be conducted urgently, as well as to ensure that the rule of law is enforced in a transparent manner,” he said.

Burma has sent extra security forces and the military to bring security back to villages scattered in western Rakhine State to ensure the safe return of more than 30,000 local villagers who fled the riots and sought shelter in refugee camps.

Bangladesh refused late last week to open its border to Rohingya Muslims despite pressure from the United States and rights groups.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Bangladesh is already home to a Rohingya refugee population estimated at 300,000. It has been turning away refugees and has closed its 200-kilometre (125-mile) border with Burma.

At least 17 boats carrying nearly 700 Rohingya have been turned back on the Naf River that separates the countries since Monday, according to wire reports.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told parliament that Dhaka was not “obligated” to host Rohingya refugees, saying Bangladesh had not signed any international conventions, laws or norms on refugees.

“I want to tell them it will not be proper to make this type of request to us,” he said, referring to requests to offer shelter to fleeing Rohingya.

The United States on Wednesday urged Bangladesh to allow the Rohingya into the country. The United Nations said they are one of the world's most persecuted minorities.

At a seminar in Bangkok last week, human rights advocates asked the U.N. and Asean to support the creation of an independent fact-finding team to go to Rakhine State, according to an article in The Bangkok Post.

A western rights activist told a seminar at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand on Wednesday that the international community needed to act before the situation grew worse.

Debbie Stothard of the Alternative Asean Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma) and deputy secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights said Asean so far has refused to take a strong stand.

She called for an independent monitoring group and facilitation for international aid workers and media inside Rakhine State.

The U.N. recently moved its staff and family members out of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Sittwe (the state's capital) to Rangoon because of the violence.

Maung Kyaw Nu, president of the Burmese Rohingya Association of Thailand, said international intervention was quoted as saying action is needed before “Muslim Rohingya are wiped out from Burma.”
Last Updated ( Monday, 18 June 2012 15:25 )  

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