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UN urges Myanmar to grant Rohingyas citizenship

General Assembly urges end to violence against Muslim minority

UN urges Myanmar to grant Rohingyas citizenship

Thousands of Rohingya remain confined to displacement camps in Rakhine state (AFP photo by Soe Than Win)


November 20, 2013

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The UN General Assembly rights committee on Tuesday urged the Myanmar government to give stateless Rohingya Muslims full access to citizenship and to end Buddhist violence against them.

Sectarian violence in the past 18 months has left more than 240 people dead, while more than 240,000 have fled their homes, most of them Rohingya.

Myanmar, a country of 60 million people, refuses to give citizenship to the estimated 800,000 Rohingya living there. The plight of the Rohingyas has infuriated Muslim nations.

The committee also called on Myanmar to stick to a promise to release all political prisoners by the end of the year.

While welcoming major reforms started by the government as Myanmar emerges from decades of military rule, the UN General Assembly's rights committee expressed concern at new detentions of political activists.

An annual resolution on Myanmar was passed by consensus by the 193-nation committee, having been toned down from past years because of changes already ordered by President Thein Sein.

The resolution welcomed the release of scores of political prisoners and Thein Sein's promise that all would be freed by the end of the year.

It urged the government "to continue the process and to fulfill its commitment to release them by the end of 2013, without conditions, and to ensure the full restoration of their rights and freedoms."

Some 69 political prisoners were freed last week, but activists say dozens remain in jail and that detentions are still being made.

The resolution also expressed "concern about remaining human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detentions of political activists and human rights defenders, forced displacement, land confiscations, rape and other forms of sexual violence and torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

European and US envoys called on Myanmar to step up the reform efforts.

US ambassador Samantha Power commented this week that "progress" has been made in Myanmar but added that there is "more to do" in the country which was ruled by a junta until 2011.

Despite the criticism, the UN resolution, which will move to the full UN General Assembly, did acknowledge "the scale of the reform effort undertaken" so far in Myanmar.

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