Myanmar says govt not to blame for religious riots
Yangon: The Myanmar government today rejected remarks by a UN human rights official suggesting that the authorities bear some blame for recent mob attacks by Buddhists on minority Muslims that killed dozens of people.
The UN official, Tomas Ojea Quintana, had yesterday urged Myanmar government to investigate allegations that security forces watched as Buddhist mobs attacked Muslims.
Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut said on his Facebook page today that he "strongly rejected" the comments by Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar.
Ye Htut said that such remarks amounted to ignoring efforts by the government, security forces, religious leaders and civil society organisations trying to restore order.
State television announced today that President Thein Sein had formed a 10-member State of Emergency management central committee to control the ongoing violence.
The committee will expose and detain those who instigated the violence, and seek ways to prevent recurrence of racial and religious conflicts, and enable rapid response in times of conflict and better coordination between security forces.
The state-run Kyemon newspaper today said 43 people had died and 86 injured since rioting first flared up on March 20 in the central town of Meikhtila. It said there were 163 incidents of violence in 15 townships in the country, with 1,355 buildings damaged or destroyed.
It reported a few attacks against "religious buildings," shops and houses yesterday, a day after Sein declared that his government would use force if necessary to quell the rioting, which was sparked by a dispute between a Muslim gold shop owner and his Buddhist customers.
Quintana welcomed Thein Sein's public call for the violence to stop, but said authorities "need to do much more" to keep the violence from spreading and undermining the reform process.
He also called on the government to look into allegations that soldiers and police stood by "while atrocities have been committed before their very eyes, including by well-organised ultra-nationalist Buddhist mobs".