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Addressing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Thursday, US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power called on the Burmese government to address communal tensions that have stoked nationwide violence that left more than 200 dead and 140,000 displaced.
The stateless Rohingya Muslim minority, predominantly of Burma’s western Arakan State, has been subject to the worst of internecine violence and makes up the vast majority of internally displaced persons (IDP) in Sittwe and surrounds. As Arakan State’s population begins to feel effects of a critical aid shortage, the US has called on the Burmese government to ensure the delivery of aid.
Speaking after a presentation by Vijay Nambiar, the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Burma, Power reportedly said that the US “continues to support Burma’s reforms, but are greatly concerned that without effective government intervention violence in Rakhine [Arakan] could worsen, lives will be lost, and the critically needed humanitarian presence will not be sustainable.”
Late last month, rioting in Sittwe forced the evacuation of hundreds of aid workers, when mobs of Arakanese Buddhists ransacked more than 30 homes and offices occupied by NGO staff. Many Arakanese believe that international aid workers are biased towards the Muslim community.
Power called on the Burmese government to intervene in the situation, which the US believes could result in more violence. The Burmese Union and Arakanese State governments have made some effort to bridge the gap left by expelled aid workers. However, according to Human Rights Watch,“the [Union] government claims it is committed to ending ethnic strife and abuse, but recent events in Arakan State demonstrate that state-sponsored persecution and discrimination persist.”