21 August, Monday


Myanmar failing to stop spread of religious violence, UN envoy says

Conflicts

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Myanmar must do more to prevent the drastic escalation of religious intolerance and violence following clashes between ultranationalist Buddhists and minority Muslims in Yangon, a senior United Nations envoy has said. 
 
Speaking to the Guardian, Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, called on the year-old National League for Democracy government led by Aung San Suu Kyi to strengthen its efforts to curb hate speech and violence drummed up by nationalist groups.
 
“I have, in the past, raised concerns regarding incidents of hate speech, incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence, and of religious intolerance, and these appear to be drastically escalating,” she said.
 
“I believe that the spread of anti-Muslim sentiments and rhetoric is not receiving the serious attention that it requires, and is too often left unchecked by the authorities. This cannot be tolerated any longer. The government must step up to take more concerted efforts to tackle and address such incidents.”
 
Last week, a fight broke out in a Muslim neighbourhood of Yangon after dozens of nationalists raided the home of a family they believed was hiding Rohingya Muslims, members of a persecuted minority deemed by many to be illegal immigrants.
 
The violence, which left several injured, came two weeks after another radical group, involving some of the same people, forced the closure of two Islamic schools.
 
While the Myanmar authorities have arrested several Buddhists in connection with the recent violence, they bowed to nationalist pressure to shutter the Islamic schools.
 
Zaw Htay, a spokesperson for Aung San Suu Kyi, declined to take questions, saying he was in a meeting that would last all day.
 
In Yangon’s Mingalar Taung Nyunt township, the majority Muslim neighbourhood where last week’s violence took place, many residents are too frightened to talk. But inside her flat, 47-year-old Ma Win recalled how nationalists, accompanied by police, stormed in shortly before midnight last Tuesday and demanded to see identity documents proving the family was not Rohingya. They broke off the door handles.

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