The United Nations in Myanmar has made an urgent appeal for more funding to address the humanitarian situation in Western Rakhine State following recent sectarian violence.
Ashok Nigam, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yangon, said yesterday evening that about 115,000 people have been displaced following deadly clashes in June and last month with many still lacking shelter as winter sets in.
To meet the basic needs of these people until June next year, the UN has said it would need to raise $68 million of which only $24 million has been received so far.
“A decisive response by donors with immediate funding will provide urgently needed life-saving aid such as emergency shelter, clean drinking water, food and healthcare,” said Nigam. “Tens of thousands of people are living in terrible conditions and they desperately need our help.”
Rakhine’s population of 3.2 million people already relies on UN aid for 200,000 people following severe flooding in 2010.
Lt-Gen Thein Htay, Myanmar’s minister of border affairs, reiterated the government line in the same press conference that there is no such thing as Rohingyas in Myanmar.
Whether or not the Muslim minority in Rakhine is a seperate, Myanmar ethnic group has been a key point of contention amid recent sectarian violence.
“We found people who want to describe themselves as Rohingyas but the problem is their parents are Bengali,” said Lt-Gen Thein Htay.
The government has in recent weeks initiated a screening program to determine the nationality of Muslims in Rakhine based on the controversial 1982 citizenship law which identifies 135 different ethnic groups in the country that are supposed to have settled prior to 1823. The list does not include Rohingyas.
Some Rohingyas said in recent interviews that during the citizenship screening process in Rakhine they described themselves as Rohingyas but the authorities recorded them as Bengalis.
Mr Ojea Quintana, the UN special envoy on human rights in Myanmar, this week welcomed the commitment of the government to apply the rule of law in addressing the country’s citizenship problem but said “contentious” issues needed to be resolved, according to the UN daily news.
The government needed to develop a clear strategy to address tensions driven by ethnicity and religion, he added, and should address discrimination and rights violations against Rohingyas.