Five female Nobel Peace Prize laureates have released an open letter to US President Barack Obama and President Thein Sein of Burma urging them to make a firm commitment to end the sectarian violence in Rakhine State.”
“We are deeply saddened by reports of the recent deaths of 170 people, and the displacement up to 110,000 people from their homes,” the statement said. “We also encourage an end to the restrictions on humanitarian assistance [and] preventing survivors of the violence—including women and children—from getting much-needed medical help, food and shelter.”
The open letter was addressed November 18 and was signed by: Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate 1997; Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate 2011; Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate 1976; Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate 1992; and Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate 2003.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he welcomes Thein Sein’s pledge to tackle the problems in Rakhine State.
The Burmese president—who previously told the UN it should take responsibility for finding homes in third countries for the Rohingyas—on Friday condemned the “senseless violence” between the Muslim Rohingya community and Rakhine Buddhists, and blamed the unrest on extremists.
“There were nationalist and religious extremists who incited and agitated improperly behind the scenes to spread the violence in the region," Thein Sein reportedly told religious leaders. “Besides, there were some foreign organizations and nations who tried to fuel the flames by circulating false and fabricated news,” he said, without identifying them.
NGOs and international rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have, however, accused Burma’s security forces of involvement in a litany of human rights abuses in the region—primarily against Rohingyas and other Muslims—including torture, sexual violence against women, and looting.
Burma’s state-run MRTV reported that action had been taken against 1,081 people in connection with the violence in Rakhine State, but gave no further details.
On Saturday, the world's top Islamic body, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), called for the international community to protect Muslims in Rakhine State from what it called "genocide."
OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of Turkey also called for a stop to what he called "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya, considered among the most persecuted groups in the world by the United Nations.
However, ASEAN General Secretary Dr. Surin Pitsuwan rejected the notion that such a genocide was in progress.
Speaking at the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh on Friday, he said that ASEAN’s role was essentially one of humanitarian assistance and consistency. He said it could not dictate what citizenship laws a country lays down.
The ASEAN General Secretary noted that the months ahead were the time when the seas were calm and the season that Rohingya and other migrants would often take to the high seas.