UNHCR appeals for dialogue, confidence-building following recent IDP violence in Myanmar

Briefing Notes, 13 August 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 13 August 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Violent clashes between displaced Muslims and security forces in Myanmar's Rakhine state last Friday have left one man dead and about 10 people injured. UNHCR is reiterating its call for peaceful dialogue and confidence building between the IDPs and Government. We believe this is key to avoiding further violence.

The latest incident is reported to have started on Friday morning when a dead body was found in a creek near Ohn Taw Gyi IDP camp outside Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state. The cause of death and the handling of the body erupted into a dispute between a group of IDPs and the local police. This is believed to have led to violent confrontations between the police and IDPs, during which four IDPs sustained gunshot wounds and one was hit on the head by other IDPs. The IDPs burned a former border guard base near Ohn Taw Gyi. We understand that at least three individuals were subsequently arrested.

The IDPs then blocked a road leading to the site of the incident. As a member of a UN inter-agency team, UNHCR was invited by the Government to mediate in the situation and defuse tensions. The UN team managed to gain temporary access and assess the situation on site, however we received reports later that police had removed the road block using force and resulting in further injuries.

On Sunday it was reported that one of the shooting victims had died from his injuries. Humanitarian community sources have been able to confirm, to some extent, the casualties related to the events of Friday. However, access to reliable information remains problematic.

Over the weekend, UNHCR and its partners were unable to access the affected areas for security reasons. By yesterday, the situation had calmed enough for humanitarian work to resume in the affected camps.

With most temporary shelters completed, camp coordination and camp management activities are of paramount importance to assist in ensuring constructive dialogue with the authorities in order to prevent future incidents. Our teams are working with partners and the IDPs to strengthen camp management and help establish reliable camp committees that can mitigate any future tensions.

Some 140,000 people remain internally displaced in Rakhine state following last year's inter-communal violence. An additional 36,000 people in isolated areas and host communities in the state have also been adversely affected, with little to no access to work and basic services.

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