UN envoy visits Myanmar city, site of deadly intercommunity violence

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Vijay Nambiar, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Myanmar

A senior UN official has just concluded a mission to Myanmar where at least 30 people were reportedly killed during recent unrest between Buddhist and Muslim communities in the central city of Meiktila.

Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General's Special Advisor for Myanmar, told journalists in New York on Tuesday that he was in the country when the violence broke out.

Mr. Nambiar said he got permission from the government to visit some of the affected areas over the weekend. He met with victims, who are mostly Muslims, and are now living in shelters.

He spoke on the line from Thailand.

"The situation there is quite devastating in many respects, and the people were traumatised. But one thing I noticed was that it had taken them so much by surprise. They had lived for generations together with their Buddhist neighbours that they found it very difficult to understand how this could have happened. And most of the people I spoke to tended to suggest that the attacks were perpetrated by people they did not really recognize and they may have been outsiders. But clearly they were targeted. It was clear that it was specifically targeted against them and they were mostly Muslim communities. There was one shelter in which the Buddhists were also housed but it was mainly the Muslims who were targeted, and it seemed to have been done almost with a kind of brutal efficiency."

Mr. Nambiar said the Myanmar authorities have apprehended more than 20 people in connection with the attacks and that investigations are continuing.

He said he also met with Myanmar's President Thein Sein who said firm action will be taken to prevent the spread of such incidents elsewhere in the country.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

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