YANGON: Myanmar on Monday told a UN rights envoy it rejected accusations of abuse by security forces in the wake of communal unrest, after the United Nations raised fears of a crackdown on Muslims.
In a press conference attended by UN Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana, Myanmar's foreign minister said the government had exercised “maximum restraint” in bringing an end to the violence in western Rakhine State.
“As such, Myanmar strongly rejects the accusations made by some quarters that abuses and excessive use of force were made by the authorities in dealing with the situation,” Wunna Maung Lwin told reporters.
He said the country “totally rejects the attempts by some quarters to politicise and internationalise this situation as a religious issue”.
Quintana told reporters that on Tuesday he planned to visit Rakhine, where tens of thousands remain displaced by fighting that erupted between Buddhist and Muslim communities in early June.
His trip comes just days after the United Nations warned that Muslim communities in Rakhine, particularly the Rohingya people, were being targeted by security forces.
Earlier this month Amnesty International warned of “credible reports” of abuses -- including rape and unlawful killings -- by both Rakhine Buddhists and the security forces.
According to official figures, at least 77 people were killed in the unrest, including eight killed by security forces.
Of the more than 60,000 displaced, Myanmar officials said the vast majority -- around 53,000 -- were Muslims.
Ten aid organisation staff -- six from the UN and four employees of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) -- are among more than 800 people being held in relation to the unrest.
Both sides have accused each other over the attacks, which flared up following the rape and murder of a local Buddhist woman and subsequent revenge killing of 10 Muslims on June 3 by a mob of ethnic Rakhines.
Fears about the situation have spread across the Islamic world, with threats of violent reprisals against Myanmar from extremists from Pakistan to Indonesia.
Myanmar's government considers the estimated 800,000 Rohingya in the country to be foreigners while many citizens see them as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and view them with hostility.
Earlier this month, President Thein Sein told the United Nations that refugee camps or deportation was the “solution” for the Rohingya, according to his official website.
Quintana is set to meet the Myanmar leader in the capital Naypyidaw on Friday.