Quintana on the arrested NGO employees and demonstration in Buthidaung

Buthidaung: The UN special human rights envoy to Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, has met the three arrested UNHCR employees in Buthidaung Prison, their lawyers and relatives on his investigation tour to Buthidaung in Arakan State on Wednesday.

A prison officer on condition of anonymity told Narinjara that Quintana accompanied by government officials came to Buthidaung from Sittwe by helicopters before 9 am and firstly visited the prison in the town to meet the three arrested employees of the UNHCR, who are Muslims and identified as U Soe Myint, Ma Cho Lay Mar and Maung Khin Htwe.

“He met them privately in the prison from 9 am to 11 am”, said the prison officer.

They were arrested by the local authorities along with six other NGO employees during the violent unrest in nearby Maungdaw Township last June.

The authorities disclosed that they were arrested for distributing leaflets that agitated the violence and arson attacks in the area.

The local residents said that Mr. Quintana also met U Soe Myint’s family living in No. 2 Ward in downtown Buthidaung and their two defense lawyers who have come from Rangoon after he left the prison at 11:30 am after meeting them.

The residents however said they do not know what Mr. Quintana discussed with them.

About 200 Arakanese residents also held demonstration wearing anti-INGO T-shirts and holding the national flags and posters from 9 am to 12 pm in front of the Buthidaung Prison coinciding Quintana’s visit.

Ko Than Hlaing, a spokesperson of the demonstrators in Buthidaung, said they held demonstration because the UN and INGOs have biased and interfered in the political affairs in their homeland showing human rights as their reasons.

“We, Arakanese people, don’t like the UN and other INGOs operating in our homeland because they have perpetuated biases and discrimination against us and have also interfered in the political affairs of our country. So, we have demonstrated against them while Mr. Quintana visited here”, said Ko Than Hlaing.

The demonstrators have worn the anti-INGO T-shirts and held posters that read “We need justice and fairness”, “Comply with our President’s Decisions”, “Respect Our National Sovereignty”, “We don’t need discrimination”, “INGO-Get Out”, and “Don’t make Arakan into a Second Kosovo”, etc, during their demonstration.

Ko Than Hlaing said they were not allowed to talk to Mr. Quintana during his visit in their town despite their requests to the authorities.

“Mr. Quintana has paid his attentions only to the Bengali Muslims here and there is nothing to hope for the Arakanese peoples from his mission in Arakan State”, he said.

The demonstration was held peacefully and there was no disturbance or prevention by the authorities during the demonstration.

A similar demonstration was also held by the Arakanese residents in Maungdaw, when Quintana visited the town on 31 July.