Tomas Ojea Quintana met with protest as he arrived in western Burma’s Arakan State on Friday during his last visit to the country as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma.
Nyo Aye, protest leader and member of the Rakhine Women’s Network said the protestors gathered in five areas along Quintana’s route from the Sittwe Airport to the town’s prison and displacement camps, demanding that he get out of town.
“We don’t want him here,” she said.
“This is the ninth time he is in town and every single time he comes here, he only pays attention to Bengalis, and we are protesting his biases.”
Many Burma nationals use the term Bengali to refer to the ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority, which are not recognised as one of Burma’s official ethnic groups, and are legally denied citizenship. Rohingya Muslims have been termed by the United Nations as among the world’s most persecuted peoples.
Quintana visited the Sittwe Prison and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in the area, and also met with representatives from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP).
Khin Maung Gree, Central Committee member of the RNDP, told DVB after his meeting with the rapporteur, “We explained to him our movement for constitutional reforms, and how their [the UN] approach on the [communal riots] was wrong.
“We pointed out how the Arakanese, as a minority, never had any sympathy from international organisations or protection by the government.”
On 11 February, before heading to Burma, Quintana expressed that he hoped to be able to assess what steps the Burmese government has taken to improve the human rights situation in Arakan State, which has suffered several bouts of ethno-religious violence since June 2012.
The most recent outbreak in the troubled state has prompted reports from the UN and other credible sources that dozens of Muslims were brutally killed in a retaliatory massacre in the state’s northern Maungdaw township. Incessant calls for independent investigations have been refused by the government, which has denied that a massacre took place and undertaken its own probe into the events.
The UN official is scheduled to visit Kachin State and Karen State as well as the area surrounding the Latpadaung Copper Mine in Sagaing Division. Quintana also plans to meet with government and parliament officials before leaving the country on 19 February.