Tomas Ojea Quintana, United Nations human rights envoy. Photo by: Evan Schneider / UN

The United Nations is evaluating the ethnic violence in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine — with the findings expected to be among measures of the country’s ongoing democratic reforms.

The global body has sent human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana on a seven-day visit to Myanmar. He was in Rakhine on July 31 and is also set to visit the state of Kachin, the site of clashes between rebels and government forces.

Quintana’s visit is largely in response to increasing international pressure for a neutral body to investigate reports of human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims living in Rakhine. Myanmar does not recognize the approximately 800,000 Rohingya in the state as citizens, and the United Nations has described the group as among the world’s most persecuted minorities.

Violence between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists escalated in June, leaving at least 78 people dead and prompting some aid groups to withdraw from the state. The situation there has since somewhat stabilized and aid workers have been returning, but concerns remain. For one, some U.N. staff members working in the state are facing criminal charges and aid groups report difficulties entering some areas.

Quintana was mum about his assessment of the situation in Rakhine when he appeared before journalists following his visit to the state’s capital and one of the hardest-hit towns, The Associated Press says. A number of aid and human rights organizations, meanwhile, report ongoing abuses against Rohingya Muslims.

The founder of Human Rights Action Center, for instance, cites “disturbing” and “increasingly credible reports” of state security forces joining the conflict against Rohingya and of calls to implement an apartheid system against the group. 

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, meanwhile, has urged the global Muslim community to provide humanitarian, financial and political assistance to the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

“There is displacement where tens of thousands of people lost their homes. There is a great need to house them, feed them, help them medically,” Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu said, adding that the OIC will meet in Malaysia on Aug. 3 to discuss ways to provide aid to people in Rakhine and to those who fled to neighboring countries.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.