Ethnic clashes in Burma’s Rakhine state over the past month has resulted in the deaths of at least 78 people and a call from the United Nations Human Rights chief Navi Pillay for an independent investigation into possible abuses committed by security forces.
The violence stems from ethnic clashes between Buddhists and Muslims which have, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, led to the displacement of roughly 80,000 people.
Pillay lashed out last week at the Burmese government saying that the UN has“been receiving a stream of reports from independent sources alleging discriminatory and arbitrary responses by security forces, and even their instigation of and involvement in clashes.” The Burmese Foreign Ministry retaliated to these claims Monday saying it “strongly rejects” the allegations, which implicate authorities with the use of excessive force to end the violence in the Rakhine state.
The government published an announcement in the state newspaper New Light of Myanmar on Tuesday saying that“the survivability of a nation is far more important than democracy for no democracy thrives on the soil of a country that has lost unity, independence and sovereignty, in other words, a failed state.”
Pillay said the reports she has received indicate that the response to the violence has became a crackdown targeting Rohingya Muslims. The Burmese government has agreed to allow a UN envoy to enter the Rakhine state, a move Pillay welcomed but warned was “no substitute for a fully-fledged independent investigation.”
Aung San SuuKyi, the Burmese opposition leader and a prominent global figure, had recently called for new laws which would guarantee the rights of ethnic minority groups. During her first speech delivered to parliament, SuuKyi stressed that such laws were vital in Burma’s transition to a true democratic nation based on mutual respect.
Burma is a nation which has long suffered under a military regime. SuuKyi herself was under house arrest for nearly 15 years. Last year a new civilian government came to power, releasing hundreds of political prisoners. The transition in Burma has been marred by ethnic clashes, as the government refused to recognise the Rohingya Muslims as an ethnic group in Burma.