UNITED NATIONS, June 19 (UPI) -- Myanmar's failure to deal with violence against the Rohingya, an ethnic and religious minority, threatens its transition to democracy, a U.N. official said.
Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said Wednesday the government of the country formerly known as Burma must make dealing with the violence a priority.
"The president of Myanmar has made some important statements on the need to end discrimination and violence and foster mutual respect and tolerance between people of different faiths and ethnicities," Pillay said. "I believe that the political will is there, but encourage the Government to translate this will into concrete actions."
About 800,000 Rohingya, Muslims who speak a language related to Bengali, live in Myanmar, mostly in Rakhine province. The United Nations said about 140,000 have been forced out of their homes in Rakhine and are now internal refugees, while others have left the province by boat.
Anti-Muslim violence has spread to other provinces. In March, 43 Muslims were killed in Meiktila in the Mandalay region, while a mosque and a boarding school were burned in Lashio in Shan state last month.