UN envoy says Myanmar failed to protect him in convoy attack

Updated 22 August 2013

UN envoy says Myanmar failed to protect him in convoy attack

YANGON: The UN’s rights envoy on Myanmar Wednesday slammed the nation’s government for failing to protect him when his convoy came under attack in a town reeling from religious unrest.
“The state has to protect me as a responsibility... This did not happen. The state failed to protect me,” Tomas Ojea Quintan, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, told reporters at the end of his 10-day visit to the country.
No one is thought to have been injured in the incident, which occurred on August 19 in the town of Meiktila, central Myanmar, where anti-Muslim violence in March left at least 44 dead.
In a statement the UN envoy said his vehicle “was descended upon by a crowd of around 200 people who proceeded to punch and kick the windows and doors of the car while shouting abuse.”
He said the incident forced him to abandon plans to visit a local camp, where some 1,600 displaced Muslims are sheltering.
“The fear that I felt during this incident, being left totally unprotected by the nearby police, gave me an insight into the fear residents would have felt when being chased down by violent mobs during the violence last March,” he said.
He reiterated reports of security forces failing to stop the March unrest, saying “police allegedly stood by as angry mobs beat, stabbed and burned” their victims to death.
Attacks against Muslims — who make up an estimated four percent of Myanmar’s population — have exposed deep fractures in the Buddhist-majority nation and cast a shadow over its emergence from army rule.
The watchdog Physicians for Human Rights on Tuesday warned that Myanmar risked “catastrophic” levels of conflict, including “potential crimes against humanity and/or genocide” if authorities failed to stem anti-Muslim hate speech and a culture of impunity around the violence.
sym/klm/jta


Civilians, soldiers clash leaving 127 dead in South Sudan

Updated 12 min 13 sec ago

Civilians, soldiers clash leaving 127 dead in South Sudan

  • The violence in Tonj began after several armed youths got into a disagreement with soldiers
  • An initial armed confrontation was brought under control, but local youths subsequently mobilized for an attack on the army position

JUBA: Clashes between soldiers and civilians during a disarmament exercise in the central South Sudanese town of Tonj have left 127 dead, the army spokesman said Wednesday.
Major General Lul Ruai Koang told AFP that the fighting erupted on Saturday as security forces carried out an operation to disarm civilians in the area which has seen deadly inter-communal clashes.
More than six years after a civil war broke out in the country, and in the absence of a functioning government, many communities are flush with weapons, which they keep for protection or defense against cattle raids.
The violence in Tonj began after several armed youths got into a disagreement with soldiers. An initial armed confrontation was brought under control, but according to Koang the youths mobilized others for an attack on the army position.
“On the latest, the number of those killed, I can confirm to you that it rose to 127,” Koang said, adding that 45 of those killed were security forces and 82 were youths from the area.
A further 32 soldiers were injured.
Koang said two military officers involved in “triggering the clashes” had been arrested, and that the situation in Tonj had calmed down.
South Sudan is emerging from a six-year civil war that left 380,000 dead and millions displaced, and disarmament is a major stumbling block.
Experts have warned against operations that coerce people to lay down their guns without proper planning, as some communities could find themselves unable to protect themselves after their weapons are removed.
“The clashes should be an opportunity to rethink the approach to disarmament. What is the point of removing guns without addressing what drives folks to arms themselves?” Geoffrey Duke, head of the South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms, said on Twitter.
“We can take guns away this week & they buy a new one next week (as) long as they still see the need to have (one).”