Current News

    UN: Burma Should Address Long-Term Needs of Rohingya Muslims

    Internally displaced Rohingya boys shiver in rain in a makeshift camp for Rohingya people in Sittwe, Burma, May 14, 2013.

    VOA News
    June 18, 2013
    The United Nations
    is urging Burma to address the citizenship status and other long-term needs of
    minority Rohingya Muslims, tens of thousands of whom remain in refugee camps
    following communal violence.
    The U.N.
    humanitarian relief agency said Tuesday 140,000 people remain displaced in
    Burma’s western Rakhine state, a year after the Buddhist-Muslim clashes killed
    about 200 people and left much of the region racially and religiously
    segregated.
    The report said
    increased humanitarian aid has addressed the immediate needs of the displaced
    communities. It said food is now distributed regularly to those in need, about
    3,000 latrines are functioning, and temporary shelter for over 71,000 people
    has been built.
    But the agency
    cautioned that such measures are only temporary, warning that root causes of
    the tensions must be addressed in order to restore lasting peace and harmony.
    Specifically, it
    called for the citizenship status of the 800,000 Muslims in Rakhine state to be
    addressed. It said the “consequences of statelessness for Muslims in
    Rakhine state continue to have a direct effect on fundamental human rights, and
    the social and economic development” of Burma.
    Though many
    Rohingya have lived in Rakhine for decades, they are denied citizenship and
    many other basic rights in Burma, where they are instead regarded as illegal
    immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.
    The Rohingya are
    also subject to many other discriminatory government policies, such as restrictions
    on movement and a two-child limit that is not in place for other members of
    Burmese society.
    The U.N. report on
    Tuesday said restrictions of access and freedom of movement have “severely
    affected employment, and health and education rights.” It said 20,000
    primary school-aged displaced children have lost an entire school year, and
    have no access to formal education.
    Rights groups have
    warned that Burma is in danger of creating a long-term state of religious
    segregation if it does not take steps to resettle the Rohingya refugees. One
    group, Human Rights Watch, recently said the Muslim population in the city of
    Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, is “completely segregated.”
    Burmese officials,
    who have prevented people from leaving the refugee camps, have suggested the
    segregation is temporary and necessary to prevent further unrest in the area.
    Although the
    violence in Rakhine state has since calmed, sectarian clashes later spread to
    other areas of Burma, where it has taken on an a more general, anti-Muslim
    tone.
    The unrest
    threatens to undermine the political and economic reforms undertaken by Burmese
    President Thein Sein.