Burma 'failed to protect' UN rights envoy

A woman with a child walks past a damaged mosque in Meiktila. Photo: June 2013 Thousands of Muslims were left homeless after the clashes in Meiktila

The UN human rights envoy to Burma has accused the country's government of failing to protect him when his convoy came under attack this week.

Tomas Ojea Quintana said this happened during his visit to the central town of Meiktila, the scene of recent deadly clashes between Buddhists and Muslims.

He said some 200 people surrounded his car, punching the doors and windows.

No-one was hurt, but the envoy said he now had an insight into how people would have felt during March's clashes.

"The state failed to protect me," Mr Quintana told reporters at the end of his 10-day visit to Burma (Myanmar).

He said that Monday's attack forced him to abandon his plans to visit a local camp, where thousands of displaced Muslims were sheltering.

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"The fear that I felt during this incident, being left totally unprotected by the nearby police, gave me an insight into the fear residents would have felt when being chased down by violent mobs during the violence last March," he added.

The Burmese authorities have so far made no public comments on the issue.

Mr Quintana was in Burma on a fact-finding visit following the religious clashes.

At least 43 people - most of them from Burma's small Muslim community - died in the violence that erupted after an argument at a Muslim-owned shop.

The violence sparked clashes in at least three other towns and left more than 12,000 Muslims displaced.

The clashes in Meiktila were the worst since ethnic violence in Rakhine state last year, where nearly 200 people were killed and tens of thousands forced from their homes.

The conflict that erupted in Rakhine involved Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, who are not recognised as Burmese citizens.

The communities remain largely segregated in the wake of the violence, with many displaced Rohingya Muslims living in tents or temporary camps.

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