UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged Burma’s government to protect UN and international aid workers and ensure a peaceful and credible census in troubled Arakan State, where Rohingya Muslims have been the targets of a Buddhist mob attack.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN chief delivered the two messages to President Thein Sein during a phone conversation on Sunday.
Ban was responding to Thursday’s attack on the offices and homes of international aid workers, including the UN World Food Program, in the Arakan State capital, Sittwe, and the country’s first census in 30 years, which began Sunday and has been widely criticized for stoking religious and ethnic tensions after the government denied the long-persecuted Muslim minority the right to identify themselves as “Rohingya.”
Burma, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million, emerged from a half-century of military rule in 2011. But newfound freedoms of expression that accompanied its transition to democracy have given voice to religious hatred, causing violence that has left up to 280 people dead and sent another 240,000 fleeing their homes.
Ban urged the government to uphold its obligations toward the safety and security of all international staff members and to ensure the protection of property, Dujarric said.
The secretary-general also said that impunity cannot be tolerated in the context of Burma’s reform process and called for the protection of all civilians and the full respect for the rule of law. He also welcomed the initial measures undertaken by the authorities so far.
“Given the heightened tensions and anxieties among various communities in Rakhine [Arakan] with regard to the nationwide census, the Secretary-General underlined the importance for this critical exercise to be undertaken in a peaceful and, above all, credible manner,” Dujarric said.