UN's Myanmar envoy says, despite reforms, abuses continue
Yangon - The UN human rights envoy for Myanmar said Saturday that, despite ongoing reforms, there was evidence of rights violations, especially against a mainly Muslim minority.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, after a five-day fact finding mission to the country formerly called Burma, said he was pleased with the cooperation he had received from Myanmar’s government.
The reforms were "continuing in the right direction," he said.
He also met democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who after many years of house arrest is now opposition leader as the government has embarked on a reform programme.
Despite the progress, said Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, severe rights violations were evident, particularly in the troubled western Rakhine state.
He said he had called on Myanmar’s home affairs minister to ensure an immediate halt to "any practices of torture and ill treatment that may be occurring" in a prison in Rakhine state.
The state was last year rocked by communal strife between majority Buddhists and mainly Muslim Rohingya, many of whom are officially stateless with cultural links to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Quintana visited internally displaced persons camps in Rakhine, where some 120,000 Rohingya are being cared for by United Nations agencies and aid groups.
He said that people in the Rakhine camps, "especially the Muslim camps in Myay Bone township, need medical assistance." "It is not just the lack of resources. It is difficult to get medical assistance to Muslims because of Rakhine Buddhists."
He said the ongoing communal conflicts between Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine could "undermine the reform process in Myanmar." Quintana said he called on Myanmar’s home affairs minister to instruct authorities at Buttidaung Prison in Rakhine to "immediately halt any practices of torture and ill treatment that may be occurring which are contrary to international human rights law." He urged the government to amend the country’s 1982 citizenship law to allow Muslim residents of Rakhine to become citizens.
Quintana said the reform process in Myanmar, "while continuing apace," was lagging at the local level.
"Gaps remain between the reforms at the top and the reality and implementation on the ground, which I appreciate will take time to close," he said.//DPA