A group of Rohingya Muslims are seen at a camp in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine. (File photo)
The United Nations has expressed concern over rights abuses by the government of Myanmar, calling for an end to discrimination against ethnic and religious groups in the country.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on rights in Myanmar, said in a press conference at the Yangon international airport on Saturday that the use of excessive force by Myanmar’s government against local communities and ethnic groups worried the UN.
Quintana, who concluded a visit to Myanmar on Saturday, said nearly 120,000 people are now living in camps under a lack of adequate healthcare in bigger Muslim camps, referring to the situation of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.
The UN official said harassment of medical staff by Buddhist extremists in Rakhine was one of the reasons behind the poor healthcare.
The government needs to address the problem of freedom of movement in the camps, Quintana stated, adding that one of the camps “felt more like a prison than a camp.”
The persecuted Muslim minority have faced torture, neglect, and repression in Myanmar since the country achieved independence in 1948.
“Mutually respectful dialogue cannot be had while discrimination based on grounds of ethnicity and religion remains unaddressed,” the UN official said, calling on the government to end discrimination against ethnic groups.
On December 25, 2012, the UN General Assembly issued a resolution expressing concern over the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar. The resolution called on Myanmar’s government to “protect all their (Muslims) human rights, including their right to a nationality.”
In November 2012, Human Rights Watch reported accounts of “gruesome casualties” due to the ethnic violence in Rakhine, including beheadings and killings of women and children.
Quintana also pointed to the “serious human rights violations” in the northern state of Kachin.
“I am concerned about the ongoing practice of arbitrary arrest and torture during interrogation by the military of Kachin men accused of belonging to the Kachin Independence Army.”