Thursday, October 25, 2012

Renewed violence flares in Rakhine State

Thursday, 25 October 2012 12:26 Mizzima News

Reports from Rakhine State said violence continued in the strife-torn state this week. The death toll officially stood at up to two persons, but local unofficial reports said the figure could be much higher.

A massive fire in Kyaukphyu Township, Arakan (Rakhine) State, on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2012. Renewed sectarian violence this week has claimed at least two dead and more than 1,000 homes burned, authorities said. Photo: Thein Hlaing / Mizzima

Officially, the number of homes burned in Minbya and Mrauk U townships was 1,039, according to the latest report by the state-run New Light of Myanmar. Because of the region’s remoteness, it is difficult to get reliable information from the area.

Authorities said clashes erupted late Sunday and flared again late Tuesday in two more towns, Kyauk Phyu and Myebon.

The local authorities have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew from 7 p.m. (local time) to 5 a.m. in the two areas since Monday night.

The director of President Thein Sein’s office said on Wednesday that more security was sent into the area.

“Although martial law has been imposed, the security forces could not control the situation yet. That’s why there are more riots in Minbya, Kyauk Phyu, and Mrauk U right now,” he said, according to an article on the Radio Free Asia (RFA) website on Friday.

The RFA reported that Maung Ni, a Rohingya man from Kyauk Phyu, said “thousands” of Rohingyas in the port town had fled their homes amid the fires and were now living on boats in the bay.

“We have no houses. There are no houses in our neighborhood anymore. There's no place to stay, so we got into our motor boats and left,” he said.

A Rakhine resident from Kyauk Phyu said that the violence was started by Rohingyas who set fires to Rakhine houses, the RFA report said.

"The violence started around seven last night when they began to throw burning [torches] toward Rakhine houses, and then Rakhines retaliated,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Al Haji Nyunt Maung Shein, the chairman of Burma's Islamic Religious Affairs Council, said it received reports as many as 178 Muslims and Buddhists were killed in the violence, but the figures could not be independently confirmed, according to a Voice of America (VOA) article on Friday.

"Still the violence is going on in Rakhine State, especially in Kyaukpyu area and Myinbya area last night.  And recently they are suffering so much.  And almost all, nearly 2,000 houses are burnt," he was quoted as saying.

Rohingya Muslims are not recognized as citizens in Burma, despite many living there for generations.  Most Buddhists in Burma consider them illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
The government withdrew an offer last week for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to open an office in Rakhine State, following Buddhist-monk-led protests in Rangoon and other cities.

Tensions between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims broke out in June over allegations in state media that Rohingya men raped a Rakhine girl. A Rakhine mob attacked and killed a busload of Rohingya, setting off revenge attacks that left up to 90 people dead and tens of thousands homeless.

The Burmese government has appointed a citizen-led investigation commission to report on the violence in November. However, one commission member said this week that the investigation has met with a lack of cooperation in the area “on both sides,” and it is finding it hard to gather reliable information.

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