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UN envoy meets Myanmar interfaith leaders

Educational opportunities and protecting human rights of internally displaced people high on the agenda

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UN envoy meets Myanmar interfaith leaders

U.N. special envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener at a meeting with Cardinal Charles Bo and other religious leaders in Yangon on July 9. (Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Yangon)

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The United Nations special envoy on Myanmar has met with Cardinal Charles Bo and other religious leaders on internal conflicts that continue to plague the nation, particularly the Rohingya Muslim crisis in Rakhine State.

Myint Swe, a Buddhist and president of Religions for Peace-Myanmar, said Christine Schraner Burgener discussed ongoing peace and reconciliation efforts on July 9 in the country's commerical hub, Yangon.

This included the importance of freedom of movement and access to education for more than 100,000 inhabitants of internally displaced person (IDP) camps in Rakhine.

Myint Swe provided a briefing about community-led projects in conflict-torn areas.

He said the U.N. envoy acknowledged challenges the country is facing in its transition from decades of military rule to democracy.

Al Haj Aye Lwin, from a Yangon-based Islamic school, said he stressed the need to improve access to education for children in the IDP camps.

"I told her to convey a message to the government to allow students from the camps who pass their matriculation exams to be able to attend universities elsewhere,” Aye Lwin told ucanews.com.

He said he also talked about recommendations of the Rakhine commission of inquiry headed by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, including improved infrastructure to combat poverty, enhancing human rights protection and establishing a clear pathway for Rohingya citizenship.

Al Haj Aye Lwin said improving conditions in the IDP camps was crucial to paving the way for Rohingya refugees to return from sprawling settlements in neighboring Bangladesh.

Schraner Burgener talked about a greater role for religious leaders in striving for a more tolerant society.

In a briefing at the Security Council on Feb. 28, Schraner Burgener outlined steps required to stem the violence such as facilitating unfettered humanitarian access to dislocated people and addressing the root causes of tensions.

"Accountability is essential for combating impunity and genuine reconciliation," she stressed.

Schraner Burgener's current visit to Myanmar, including to Rakhine State, is her sixth to Myanmar since she was appointed special envoy in April 2018.

She is cooperating with Myanmar's government on how the U.N. can help facilitate the return and resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled a bloody crackdown by Myanmar's military in August 2017 following attacks on police posts by a Rohingya militants.

Rakhine has also experienced outbreaks of fighting since last December between the military and the Arakan Army, a mostly Buddhist insurgent group that seeks greater autonomy.

At least 35,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes and take shelter at monasteries, schools and nearby communities, according to the U.N. 

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