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Myanmar rejects UN envoy's claims of convoy attack
Publication Date : 23-08-2013
The Myanmar government and local witnesses have denied a UN human rights envoy's claims that his car was attacked by a mob of 200 in Meikhtila, Mandalay region, on Monday night.
At a press conference before his departure from Yangon International Airport on Wednesday, UN rights rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana raised an incident in Meikhtila when crowds descended on his car at about 10pm on Monday, punching and kicking the windows as the police stood back.
"The fear that I felt during this incident, being left totally unprotected by the nearby police, gave me an insight into the fear residents would have felt when being chased down by violent mobs during the violence last March when police allegedly stood by as angry mobs beat, stabbed and burned to death some 43 people," said Quintana.
Presidential spokesperson Ye Htut told the Associated Press that Quintana was never in danger. He said members of the crowd approached the convoy only to give him a letter and a T-shirt, "so what Quintana said is different from the true situation," AP reported.
AP quoted Ye Htut as saying that one police car was escorting the UN rights envoy and 30 other officers were controlling the crowd. Police gave protection to him and people had no intention to hurt him. The police successfully cleared a path and the convoy passed without incident, the spokesman said.
A reporter of the Eleven Media Group (EMG) who was at the scene together with a reporter from a state-run newspaper said Quintana's allegations were totally wrong.
"Since 5pm, about 1,000 people had been waiting to protest against Quintana. When he arrived, there were only about 200 as the others left because of the night-time curfew. The convoy passed just for seconds. Holding placards, they only tried to give him a letter of protest and a T-shirt.
One local witness Daw May Thet Oo also said:
"There were about 150 protestors when Quintana arrived at the top of Meikhtila bridge. They thought he was in the first car of the convoy. The protestors stepped forward to make sure Quintana saw their placards. But the traffic police and locals cleared the path. It did not even take three minutes to pass through. The crowd only wanted him to see their protest banners and hear their voice of protest. They did no harm to him. The convoy stopped for a minute and continued to go. Later, three locals went to the government's guesthouse to give him an open letter. The letter was left to the district commissioner as he promised to give it to Quintana."
"The protest letter carried points showing objection to Quintana's reports to the United Nations. The Miekhtila violence broke out after Islamists killed a Buddhist monk. The situation worsened as the Muslims from Mingalar Zeyon Quarter were shouting with abusive words all night," added the local witness.
Police said there were 10 policemen to the entrance of the bridge at 6pm, another 10 policemen near the bridge, and 10 policemen stood by in a car.
“What I saw was the crowds came forward to the road and protested when the first car arrived. Quintana was not in that car. Immediately, traffic policemen and locals cleared the road. Although the crowds came forward wishing the UN envoy to see the placards, traffic policemen, policemen and locals cleared the road for the cars in the convoy. The protesters on motorbikes went after the convoy shouting “'We don’t want Quintana, no Quintana'. There were an estimated 20 motorcycles and 40 protesters. When the convoy went past the crowds, some banged the cars but they did not mean to do harm. They were intending to make sure Quintana's convoy saw the placards,” said the EMG reporter.
Quintana has sought the amdendment of the 1982 Citizenship Law. The Myanmar citizens have lost trust in Quintana because Myanmar will face illegal influxes of people from Bangladesh if the law is not in effect.