UNHCR appeals for dialogue following IDP violence in Myanmar

News Stories, 13 August 2013

© UNHCR/P.Behan
A young girl in Myanmar's Rakhine State. UNHCR has appealed for measures to prevent more violence following the latest clashes with IDPs.

GENEVA, 13 August (UNHCR) UNHCR on Tuesday called for measures to prevent further violence in the wake of the latest clashes between displaced Muslims and security forces in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

"The clashes last Friday have left one man dead and about 10 people injured," UN refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing in Geneva. "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 was reported to have started on Friday when a body was found in a creek near Ohn Taw Gyi camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) outside the state capital, Sittwe. The cause of death and the handling of the body triggered a dispute between IDPs and local police, Edwards said.

This is believed to have led to confrontations between the police and IDPs in 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. UNHCR said it understood 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. The UN team managed to gain temporary access to assess the situation but received reports later that police had removed the roadblock by force, resulting in further injuries.

On Sunday it was reported to UNHCR 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 but 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, UNHCR said.

"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," said Edwards.

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 or no access to work and basic services.