Int’l Islamic group visit Arakan state

DVB, 11 September 2012 Myanmar Rohingya people pass the time at their slum near the sea in the town of Sittwe

Rohingya people pass the time at their slum near the sea in the town of Sittwe on 19 May 2012. (Reuters)

Members of an influential Islamic body are visiting Burma’s Arakan state, a government official said Tuesday, to survey fallout from deadly sectarian unrest between Buddhist and Muslim communities.

A delegation from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) led by the group’s representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen, arrived in Arakan state on Sunday, according to an official in the state capital Sittwe.

“They met the union border affairs minister and Rakhine [Arakanese] chief minister here and also visited some refugee camps and made donations,” he said, adding that the group concluded their visit on Monday.

Fighting in Arakan state has left almost 90 people dead, both Buddhists and Muslims, since it erupted in June according to an official estimate, although rights groups fear the real toll is much higher.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused Burmese forces of opening fire on stateless Rohingya Muslims during the violence, an accusation denied by the government — prompting concern across the Islamic world.

At a summit last month in the Saudi Arabian holy city of Mecca, the 57-member OIC decided to take its concerns over the treatment of the group to the UN.

It also condemned “the continued recourse to violence by the Myanmar authorities against the members of this minority and their refusal to recognise their right to citizenship”.

Burma in August agreed to allow the OIC to provide aid to the region, on the condition it agreed to assist all communities in the area.

According to a report in the English language state newspaper the New Light of Myanmar on Tuesday, the delegation had “a cordial discussion on (the) real situation that broke out in Rakhine State”, as well as rehabilitation and sustainable development.

Hundreds of homes were razed in the unrest and an estimated 70,000 people, the majority of them Rohingya, were left displaced in government-run camps and shelters.

The US on Monday said it had “great concern” about the humanitarian situation in Arakan after its own delegation, led by the new ambassador to the country Derek Mitchell and senior envoy Joseph Yun, ended a visit to the area.

Speaking a dialect similar to one in neighbouring Bangladesh, the estimated 800,000 Rohingya in Burma are seen by the government and many in the country as illegal immigrants.

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