A resolution passed on Monday by the 193 member third committee of the United Nations General Assembly reiterated the International community's growing concern about human rights abuses in Kachin and Arakan (Rakhine) state.
Citing the report of the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Burma Tomas Quintana the resolution adopted unanimously by consensus called on Burma's government “to accelerate its efforts to address discrimination, human rights violations, violence, displacement and economic deprivation affecting various ethnic minorities".
While noting the significant political reforms implemented by President Thein Sein's civilian government over the past year the resolution specifically cited the Kachin conflict as an issue of importance. The resolution reads that it “Expresses deep concern about the continuing armed conflict in Kachin State and the associated human rights and international humanitarian law violations, and calls upon the government and all parties to the armed conflict to take measures to protect the civilian population and for safe, timely, full and unhindered humanitarian access”.
According to the latest estimates provided by UN agencies working in Burma at least 75,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Kachin and parts of Western Shan state since a 17-year ceasefire between Burma's government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) unraveled last year.
With regards to the situation in Arakan (Rakhine) state where more than 110,000 people are reported to have been displaced by communal violence since June, the resolution also expressed concern about the treatment of the region's stateless Muslim population who make up the overwhelming majority of Arakan's internally displaced population.
The resolution even went so far as to use the word Rohingya, a term whose use remains hotly contested in Burma today. While expressing a “particular concern about the situation of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state” the resolution urged Burma's government “to take action to bring about an improvement in their situation and to protect all their human rights, including their right to a nationality."
During the official discussion about the resolution that took place prior to it being adopted a member of Burma's UN delegation told the general assembly that his government opposed the use of the term Rohingya. “There has been no such ethnic group as Rohingya among the ethnic groups of Myanmar," he said. "Despite this fact, the right to citizenship for any member or community has been and will never be denied if they are in line with the law of the land", he added.
In spite of the Burma delegation’s reservations about the use of the term Rohingya they did not however oppose the resolution's adoption.
The resolution also called for Burma's government to “release all arbitrarily detained persons, including United Nations staff”, a reference to the continued jailing of one local UN staffer who was arrested in Arakan state earlier this year while performing his duties for the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
While speaking at a press conference in New York last month special rapporteur Quintana called for the release of the unnamed UN staffer whilst also calling for the immediate freedom of four other staff people from unnamed international NGOs who were also arrested while working in Arakan state around the same time.
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