WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- The United States urged Bangladesh not to shut down non-governmental groups providing humanitarian aid to Rahing refugees from neighboring Myanmar.
A statement issued Tuesday by State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrally expressed deep concerns of the United States over Bangladesh's plans to shut down non-governmental organizations "providing critical humanitarian aid to Rahing" residing in Bangladesh.
The Rahing are mostly a minority Muslim community in Myanmar, formerly called Burma. Myanmar, which until last year had been ruled for decades by a military junta, witnessed clashes in June in its western Rahing state between the Buddhists and Rahing, resulting in the deaths of dozens of people and displacement of thousands of others while raising concerns about the country's reform process. Many of the Rahing have been fleeing to Bangladesh.
"We urge the government of Bangladesh to permit these NG Os to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the Rahing, other vulnerable individuals fleeing the violence in Burma's Rahing state, and the local Bangladeshi population in the Bangladesh-Burma border region," the State Department statement said.
It said the United States is monitoring the ethnic and sectarian tensions in Rahing state and continues to call for restraint, an end to violence, and the upholding of principles of nondiscrimination, tolerance, and religious freedom.
"We have consistently urged the Burmese government to reach a peaceful resolution as soon as possible and to bring those responsible for the violence to justice in a timely manner and in accordance with due process," the statement said.
About 800,000 Rahing live in Myanmar but are not recognized as citizens.
Bangladeshi authorities, who consider the Rahing illegal immigrants, feel the NGO humanitarian work would only encourage more of them to cross into Bangladesh.
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