President blames nationalist, religious extremists for October violence

Maungdaw, Arakan State:  In a meeting recently held in Rangoon inviting Buddhist and Muslim religious leaders, President Thein Sein blamed nationalist and religious extremists for the violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine State which was occurred in October, said a Muslim from Rangoon on condition of anonymity.

“The remarks came out from the President after in a meeting with Buddhists and Muslims carried by State television on October 16.”

“There were nationalist and religious extremists who incited and agitated improperly behind the scenes to spread the violence in the region,” Thein Sein told the religious leaders.

According to sources, the sectarian assaults on Rohingyas in the state painted a picture of organized attacks led by Rakhine nationalists tied to a powerful political party (RNDP) in the state, incited by Buddhist monks, backed by local security forces.

MRTV television said action had been taken against 1,081 people in connection with the violence in Rakhine State, giving no details about those people or their offences.

“Most of the people are Rohingyas though they are not offenders,” said a Rohingya leader from inside Arakan State.

“The country will lose face among the international community if we fail to pursue the norms of human rights and humanitarian work being practiced in many countries,” the President said, calling for combined efforts by the government, Buddhist monks and people of all races and religion to work for a harmonious society where each could be respected.

The United Nations said Thein Sein had sent a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon promising action to tackle the problems in Rakhine, home to an estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims that Myanmar does not recognize as citizens.

President Thein Sein comments echo those made in a letter November 17 to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledging to address issues at the heart of hostility to the Rohingya, “ranging from resettlement of displaced populations to granting of citizenship.”

Thein Sein government would also look at “issues of birth registration, work permits and permits for movement across the country for all,” the letter, which was released in New York from his letter to UN Secretary-General.

However he refrained from making any promises on the incendiary issue of citizenship for the Rohingya, which experts say would be certain to stoke widespread outrage in Burma.

The Rohingya, considered by the United Nations to be one of the most persecuted minorities on the planet, are seen by the government and many Burmese as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

Many Rohingyas are subject to travel and work restrictions.

The United Nations said Thein Sein had committed his government to meeting the humanitarian needs of people caught up in the violence and had said it would seek international assistance and cooperation.

It said he had condemned the “criminal acts” of elements inside his country and promised to deal with the perpetrators in accordance with the rule of law.

In an open letter signed by a dozen Rohingya organizations November 17, Obama was urged to press Thein Sein to end “discrimination” and “human rights abuses” in Rakhine and to help the displaced return to their homes.

Similarly, US President Barack Obama is scheduled to make a one-day visit to Rangoon on November 19 to meet with Burmese President Thein Sein and opposition leaders.“President Obama should make clear to the Burmese president that the attacks on the Rohingya need to stop if the Burma government wants to avoid renewed sanctions and the suspension of renewed military-to-military dialogues with the United States,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This is crunch time because Burma’s failure to contain sectarian violence in Arakan State and hold accountable those responsible calls into question the Burmese government’s stated goal of becoming a rights-respecting, multi-ethnic state.”

“We expect the United States to convey a strong message to the government of Burma so they protect that minority, what is going on there is a genocide and we are telling things how they are, we believe that the United States and other … countries … should act quickly to save that minority which is submitted to an oppressive policy and a genocide,” said Djibouti’s Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, who is the acting chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

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