The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, says he remains convinced that serious violent incidents took place last month in the village of Duchira Dan, including lootings, rapes and the loss of Rohingya lives, as well as the disappearance of a local police officer.
The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had previously issued a statement saying it had “credible evidence” that an Arakanese mob had attacked the Muslim Rohingya community in the village, causing an estimated 48 deaths.
Speaking exclusively to DVB on Friday, Quintana said that he has received “extremely serious allegations” about the incidents in Maungdaw Township between 9- 13 January from “reliable sources” built up over his six years as envoy to Burma.
With regard to the presidential appointment of an inquiry commission to investigate the incidents last month in Duchira Dan [also written Du Char Yar Tan], the UN special rapporteur said he did not believe the commission was independent, but that he was “looking forward to seeing the progress of the investigation” and would await its findings.
In discussions with Burmese Home Minister Lt-Gen Ko Ko in Naypyidaw, Quintana said the Home Minister had told him the government had already carried out an investigation into the events in Maungdaw and that it concluded that nothing serious happened. The UN rapporteur said he brought up what he termed the commission’s “lack of capacity and independence”, to which Lt-Gen Ko Ko responded along the lines of, “OK, Mr Quintana, what do you propose?”
“I was very clear,” Quintana said in reply. “[I told him] ‘You need to engage with the international community. You will need international experts, including forensics.” He said he also advised the inclusion of the UN Human Rights Council and the introduction of a witness protection mechanism.
However, the UN envoy could not comment about accusations of police involvement in the alleged killings or the circumstances that led to about 20 Rohingya houses being burnt down in Duchira Dan on 28 January.
With regard to the more than 100,000 persons displaced by the communal violence in Arakan State, Quintana called on the Burmese government to develop a “master plan” which would include the resettlement of the IDPs to other parts of Arakan State if they are unable or unwilling to return to their homes, and the provision of land for those people.
With regard to his meeting with Arakanese Buddhists, including members of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, Quintana said, “We [the UN] are ready to listen to the Rakhines [Arakanese] about their grievances too.”
After a tumultuous six-year tenure as special rapporteur, the Argentine diplomat said he was “quite happy” with the progress of President Thein Sein’s government but remained “concerned” about the situation in Arakan State.
Quintana is due to present his final report to the UN in Geneva on 17 March.
Quintana said he was unsure what involvement he would have with Burma in the future, and that three candidates were being considered to replace him as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar – diplomats from South Korea, Finland and the United States.