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UN envoy says Myanmar failed to protect him in convoy attack

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The UN's rights envoy on Myanmar Wednesday slammed the nation's government for failing to protect him when his convoy came under attack in a town reeling from religious unrest.

"The state has to protect me as a responsibility... This did not happen. The state failed to protect me," Tomas Ojea Quintan, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, told reporters at the end of his 10 day visit to the country.

No one is thought to have been injured in the incident, which occurred on August 19 in the town of Meiktila, central Myanmar, where anti-Muslim violence in March left at least 44 dead.

In a statement the UN envoy said his vehicle "was descended upon by a crowd of around 200 people who proceeded to punch and kick the windows and doors of the car while shouting abuse".

He said the incident forced him to abandon plans to visit a local camp, where some 1,600 displaced Muslims are sheltering.

"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," he said.

He reiterated reports of security forces failing to stop the March unrest, saying "police allegedly stood by as angry mobs beat, stabbed and burned" their victims to death.

Attacks against Muslims -- who make up an estimated four percent of Myanmar's population -- have exposed deep fractures in the Buddhist-majority nation and cast a shadow over its emergence from army rule.

The watchdog Physicians for Human Rights on Tuesday warned that Myanmar risked "catastrophic" levels of conflict, including "potential crimes against humanity and/or genocide" if authorities failed to stem anti-Muslim hate speech and a culture of impunity around the violence.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130821/un-envoy-says-myanmar-failed-protect-him-convoy-attack