x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Myanmar rejects UN rights envoy's claim of attack

Myanmar's government has disputed accusations that it has failed to protect a leading UN envoy who said his vehicle was attacked by a 200-strong Buddhist mob during a visit to a city where religious violence flared earlier this year.

YANGON // Myanmar's government yesterday disputed accusations that it had failed to protect a leading UN envoy who said his vehicle was attacked by a 200-strong Buddhist mob during a visit to a city where religious violence flared earlier this year.

President Thein Sein's spokesman, Ye Htut, said UN human-rights rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana was never in any danger during his visit this week.

He said members of the crowd approached Quintana's convoy in the central city of Meikhtila only to give him a letter and a T-shirt, "so what Quintana said is very different from the true situation."

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million people, has been gripped by sectarian violence in the last year that has left more than 250 people dead and sent another 140,000 fleeing their homes. Most of the victims - including at least 43 from a March attack in Meikhtila - were Muslims.

Mr Quintana's 10-day visit to Myanmar, which ended on Wednesday, was in part aimed at investigating continuing tensions and the response of the government.

Mr Quintana said his convoy was mobbed on Monday night as security forces looked on.

"The fear that I felt during this incident, being 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 violence last March ... when police allegedly stood by as angry mobs beat, stabbed and burnt to death 43 people," he said.

Mr Quintana slammed the government for failing to do its job. "The state has failed to protect me," he said.