The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) with some other states at the United Nations Headquarters -- is pursuing its own resolution on human rights record in Myanmar and the suffering of the local Muslim population in Rakhine State, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana told AA.
“It seems that there is going to be a resolution by consent (at the United Nations) and with the consent of the government of Myanmar,” Quintana told AA. He stressed that is a “good news,” since UN always was looking for intergovernmental engagement.
OIC takes initiative
“The government of Myanmar is now engaging with OIC. The Organization of the Islamic Conference may go to the country and visit Rakhine state which is a good news,” Quintana told AA. He said there are between 800,000 and one million Muslims in Myanmar (Burma) – the nation with total of some 60 million inhabitants - according to the 2010 census.
Historical records show - Myanmar’s Muslims have been endangered mostly since 1960s when the army usurped the power in that country. But the biggest escalation happened in June 2012 when dozens of innocent Muslims were killed by the Myanmar's army and the Buddhist mobs in Muslim majority province of Arakan. According to the Western media reports -- over 500 Muslim villages have been incinerated so far and the persecution of the local Muslims is still going on.
Segregation is becoming permanent
In fact, Mr. Quintana told AA, there is the “new element to that,” saying, Myanmar Muslims are now also facing “segregation that is becoming permanent,” since they are living in isolated shelters built by government. It was not like that in the past, he said.
“There is a pattern of discrimination against Rohingya Muslims but they were not segregated. They were living together in a Rokhan state with some other Buddhist. But the segregation now is becoming a permanent policy,” Quintana said. He added there are now IDP (Internal Displaced Persons) camps put for Muslims in which they are isolated without allowing them to go back to their land.
“The reality is – it is becoming permanent,” Quintana said to Anadolu Agency.
Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana from Argentina was appointed Special Rapporteur to follow the human rights violations in Myanmar by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May, 2008. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity, UN said.
Extended Anti-Muslim sentiments
During his visit to UN Headquarters where he presented his report to the UN General Assembly Third Committee that deals with human rights, Mr. Quintana warned that the situation in Rakhine state was helping “to feed a wider anti-Muslim narrative in Myanmar.” He warned, that was posing one of the most serious threats to the reform process.
However, Quintana told AA, there are leaders within the community, “including Buddhist monks, who are playing a positive role in addressing the discrimination and violence against Muslim populations.”
He stressed: “These voices need to be heard and supported.”
Talking about human rights in general in Myanmar, UN expert acknowledged that the local government is showing a greater willingness to address the known issues. Quintana said he was allowed by local government and has visited Myanmar eight times -- including three times Rakhine State.
UN as well as US and other Western states, including Turkey continue to encourage Myanmar toward freedom and democracy.
Although visible progress has been made, particularly in freeing political prisoners and some freedom of the media, including -- Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi being allowed partway into local politics- the government in Myanmar was “until recently one of the most repressive regimes in the world,” US daily The Washington Post reported last week.
“The Government has yet to fulfill its obligation under international human rights law to investigate the allegations of widespread human rights violations, including by the security forces, reportedly committed during and after last year’s violence and to hold the perpetrators to account,” Quintana said as well.
UN expert presented his final report to the UN General Assembly in New York last Thursday, as he completes the six years on the mandate next spring. The Human Rights Council is scheduled to appoint a new Special Rapporteur on Myanmar in March 2014.
Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana is a lawyer who worked at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. He was also the executive director of the OHCHR Program for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Bolivia. He has represented the NGO “Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo” in child abduction cases during the military regime in Argentina.