Myanmar urged to curb spread of religious hatred to promote ethnic harmony

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Tomás Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar. [UN Photo/Evan Schneider]

Myanmar is making positive changes to its human rights situation, but the lack of genuine reconciliation among the various ethnic groups and the spread of incitement to hatred against religious minority groups, remain critical challenges the country was yet to overcome, according to a United Nations Human Rights expert.

Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, says the government needs to do more to fulfill its obligations in stemming the spread of incitement through strong public messaging, the establishment of the rule of law, and policing in line with international human rights standards.

Speaking at the end of his 8th mission to Myanmar, Mr. Quintana expressed concern over the continued separation and segregation of communities in Rakhine State adding that it was becoming increasingly permanent and impacting negatively on the Muslim community.

An attempt by the special Rapporteur to visit Meiktila where violence targeting the Muslim community left over 10,000 people displaced and 43 killed last March was cut short after this entourage was roughed up by demonstrators.

"Around 200 people descended over my car. They punched and kick the windows and doors and shouting abuses. My concern is that the police nearby, stood by without really stopping these people and intervening. The incident which took place in Meiktila was very serious, but I already discussed with the government and I hope in the near future this will not happen again. Myanmar has been under armed conflict for many decades, the challenge of the government is to start taking measures at the grassroots level so this process is inclusive and the ethnic minorities have a voice in this process they are being heard, participation of women is also very important. Without real participation of the ethnic communities this will take more time and prospects for success more difficult". 

Mr. Quintana said Myanmar still has prisoners of conscience and urged the government to make good its pledge to have all political prisoners released unconditionally by the end of the year.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 2.12

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