Sun, Nov 18, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Ethnic unrest hurting Burmese progress: Thein Sein

AFP, YANGON, Myanmar

Myanmar’s leader yesterday said that deadly communal unrest is hampering his nation’s reforms and causing it “to lose face” on the world stage, in unusually sharp comments ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama.

Condemning violence between Rohingya Muslims and local Buddhists that has left scores of people dead, Burmese President Thein Sein said it was “impossible to hide” events in Rakhine State from the international community.

The bloodshed has brought “a halt to Myanmar’s development and lost [the country] face on the international stage,” he was quoted as saying by state mouthpiece the New Light of Myanmar.

His comments echo those made in a letter on Friday to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledging to address issues at the core of hostility to the Rohingya, “ranging from resettlement of displaced populations to granting of citizenship.”

The Rohingya, considered by the UN to be one of the most persecuted minorities on the planet, are seen by the government and many Burmese as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Using softer language on the issue, Thein Sein said his government would also look at “issues of birth registration, work permits and permits for movement across the country for all,” the letter, which was released in New York, said.

Rakhine State remains febrile after being convulsed by two major outbreaks of fighting involving the Buddhist and Muslim communities since June that have left 180 dead and more than 110,000, mainly Rohingya, in makeshift camps.

Thein Sein’s comments come just days before Obama is due to arrive in Yangon for a brief, but very symbolic, visit.

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