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Camps in unrest-hit western Myanmar 'dire': UN envoy

The United Nations say more than 115,000 people remain displaced due to communal violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar's Rakhine state

AFP , Thursday 6 Dec 2012
A man carries his bicycle across rail tracks as passengers wait for the arrival of a train at a suburban station in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 (Photo: AP)

The UN's humanitarian chief has described conditions for thousands of displaced Muslim Rohingya in western Myanmar as "dire" and said both Muslim and Buddhist communities are living in fear.

Valerie Amos, who toured violence-racked Rakhine state on Wednesday, said in a statement released overnight that she was "very concerned" by the situation there, with many people in overcrowded, unsanitary camps.

The United Nations said more than 115,000 people remain displaced by the two rounds of communal violence that erupted in Rakhine in June and October. Scores died in the conflict and whole villages, mainly those of Rohingya Muslims, were forced to flee their homes.

"I was very concerned by some of what I saw today," said Amos, the UN's under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.

Amos, who travelled in the state as part of a wider visit to Myanmar, said that in one area, Myebon, thousands were packed into "overcrowded, substandard shelter with poor sanitation".

"They don't have jobs, children are not in school and they can't leave the camp because their movement is restricted. The situation is dire," she said.

Decades-old animosity between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims exploded in June after the apparent rape and murder of an ethnic Rakhine woman sparked a series of revenge attacks.

"Tensions between the communities are still running very high," Amos said.

"People from both communities gave me the same message. They are living in fear and want to go back to living a normal life. There is an urgent need for reconciliation," she added.

The UN envoy urged Myanmar to boost support for aid agencies, citing security threats to humanitarian workers as a serious challenge facing the relief effort.

"The trust is not there. We need the political leaders in Myanmar to support the important humanitarian work being done by the United Nations and our partners," she said.

The UN said it had received around a third of the $68 million it needs to provide relief for those displaced over the next nine months.

Myanmar's 800,000 Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh by the government and many Burmese. They have long been considered by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities on the planet.

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