The Rakhine State Government has invited United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit to see how “sensitive and fragile” is the situation there, the secretary of the state’s information committee, U Win Myaing, told Mizzima on April 1.

U Win Myaing was responding to comments made about the situation in Rakhine by Mr Ban in a telephone conversation with President U Thein Sein on March 30.

A UN statement issued in New York on March 31 said the conversation was in response to the attacks on the staff and property of the UN and international non-government organisations last week in the Rakhine State capital, Sittwe.

It said Mr Ban had urged the Myanmar government to uphold its obligations towards the safety and security of all staff members and to ensure the protection of property.

“The Secretary-General stressed that impunity cannot be tolerated in the context of Myanmar’s reform process and called for the protection of all civilians and the full respect for the rule of law,” the statement said.

Mr Ban also referred to heightened tensions in Rakhine over the census and “underlined the importance for this critical exercise to be undertaken in a peaceful and, above all, credible manner,” it said.

“He hopes that the conduct of the census in Rakhine and elsewhere in the country will meet established international and human rights standards.”

Responding to the UN statement, U Win Myaing said: “We accept their advice but we want them to come and witness how difficult it is to handle such a sensitive and fragile situation on the ground.”

He added that NGOs should also be careful when providing aid and relief in such a sensitive area.

In a response issued on April 2, the Myanmar Government said it had taken measures to ensure the safety and protection of all members of UN agencies and humanitarian agencies in Rakhine State.

The government statement said a commission had been formed to investigate the riots in Sittwe last week and that action would be taken against offenders in accordance with the law.

“The government is cooperating with the United Nations Population Fund-UNFPA in conducting the nationwide census taking process to be in line with international standards,” the government said in its statement, published on the front page of state-run daily newspapers on April 2.

In a statement released in Yangon on April 1, the UNFPA said it was “deeply concerned” by the government’s decision, despite a prior commitment, not to allow census respondents who wished to self-identify their ethnicity as Rohingya to do so.

The UNFPA said it was “deeply concerned about this departure from international census standards, human rights principles and agreed procedures”.