Press Release at the conclusion of the visit to Myanmar of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Myanmar, Mr. Vijay Nambiar, from 21 to 25 March 2013

Yangon, 25 March 2013 – The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Myanmar, Mr. Vijay Nambiar, today concluded a five-day working visit to Myanmar at the invitation of the Government of Myanmar.

During his stay in the country, he was received by President U Thein Sein on March 25 2013. He also held discussions with senior ministers and government, army and police officials concerned, in addition to representatives from civil society and religious leaders.

In the wake of the violent incidents that took place in Meiktila township in Mandalay Region this week, causing tragic loss of life and widespread destruction of property, the Special Adviser expressed his deep sorrow and called upon the authorities to take firm action to punish the perpetrators as well as to prevent further loss of life. More importantly, he stressed the need to prevent the spread of violence to other parts of the country.

He said the fostering of communal harmony was the responsibility of all sections of society and that religious leaders and other community leaders must publicly call on their followers to shun all violence, respect the law and promote peace. During his stay, the Special Adviser met with leaders of the different communities to stress this point.

On March 24 2013, at the invitation of the Government of Myanmar, the Special Adviser accompanied a delegation comprised of Union Ministers, the Chief Minister of Mandalay Region, officials from the Office of the Commander in Chief (Army) as well as leaders of the various communities to visit Meiktila. The delegation visited relief camps, spoke to victims and also held consultations on how to avoid future violent outbreaks of this nature in other parts of the country.

During the visit, a public meeting was convened where Muslim, Buddhist and Christian religious leaders came together along with representatives of the affected families to discuss the consequences of the current situation and measures to resolve tensions between Myanmar’s diverse communities and, where they got the opportunity, to send messages to their followers to live peacefully.

In the ensuing discussions, the Special Adviser stressed the need for firm action from the government to punish the offenders in accordance with the law, and to take all possible measures to prevent the spread of communal violence in the country.

He also noted how, during visits to shelters, victims of the violence, despite the tragic losses suffered as a result of extreme actions, did not express any hatred.

Indeed, many victims expressed gratitude at the help received from their neighbors irrespective of religious differences. Also, despite the enormous losses, many victims expressed determination to return to their homes and rebuild them with the assistance of their local partners and international community. The leaders of the religious groups and community leaders spoke of the need to strengthen proactively their dialogue and cooperation in order to prevent the spread of violence in other parts of Myanmar and to root out the communal conflicts that risk damaging the image of the country.

The Special Adviser stressed the strong sympathy and support of the Secretary-General to the affected communities amid their suffering and the full readiness of the UN agencies to continue meeting the relief and rehabilitation needs of the victims. ENDS