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UN’s Nambiar concludes low-key visit to Burma

The United Nations’ special envoy to Burma, Vijay Nambiar, wrapped up his tour to the country on Monday following visits to the towns of Sittwe and Sandoway in Arakan state.

Aye Win, a UN spokesperson in Rangoon, confirmed Nambiar was leaving on 2 September but could not provide any further details about the envoy’s visit.

Nambiar travelled to the Sino-Burmese border to meet Kachin rebel leaders; to Meikhtila, the scene of recent anti-Muslim riots; and to the restive state of Arakan where communal violence between Buddhist Arakanese and the Muslim Rohingya community over the past 15 months has left dozens dead and 140,000 displaced from their homes.

According to the National League for Democracy’s Sandoway district chairman Win Naing, the UN envoy met on Monday with religious leaders and influential figures in Sandoway.

Arakan state government spokesperson Win Myaing confirmed that the envoy also met with government officials in the town on 1 September.

“He was in Sittwe to try to apply international pressure to help resolve the religious tensions in the region,” he said. “He wanted to clarify exactly what efforts the regional government has taken with regard to both communities.”

Win Myaing added that Nambiar had remarked that he believed the situation on the ground was different from what the foreign media has been reporting. “He said the situation was not being portrayed as it actually was,” said the Arakan assembly spokesman.


In Sittwe, Nambiar also met with State Immigration Minister Khin Yi, Arakan state authorities and army officers. He also visited Rohingyas in Sittwe and Maungdaw.

Though no official statement has yet been made by the UN special envoy, it is known he met with Burma’s vice-president Sai Mauk Kham in Naypyidaw on 31 August, and was granted observer status at meeting between the Peace-making Work Committee, the Karen National Union and the Shan State Army-South. It was also reported that he met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann.

Nambiar was granted clearance to travel to the Kachin Independence Organisation stronghold of Laiza, a privilege that was not bestowed on the UN Human Rights Envoy Tomás Ojea Quintana only a week earlier.

The Indian diplomat also travelled to central Burma’s Meikhtila township where he met with religious leaders and visited IDP camps. It was in Meikhtila on August 19 that the UN envoy Quintana’s convoy was attacked by a group of protestors.

Nambiar is scheduled to hold a briefing about his trip to Burma when he attends the 68th UN General Assembly in New York later this month.


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