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At least 64 dead in fresh Rakhine unrest

UN issues stern warning

Minority Muslim Rohingyas in displacement camps in Rakhine state Minority Muslim Rohingyas in displacement camps in Rakhine state
  • Daniel Wynn, Yangon and Asia Desk, Bangkok
  • Myanmar
  • October 26, 2012
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Renewed sectarian violence in Rakhine State has left at least 64 people dead and caused many injuries in the past week, said a local official.

Increasingly violent clashes between minority Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhists have caused the deaths, said local government spokesman Win Myaing. He had earlier quoted a death toll of 112 but revised it downwards, blaming an error in calculation for the higher figure.

Hospital workers in Sittwe, the state capital, report a steady stream of wounded arriving from riot-hit towns and villages including Mrauk-U, an ancient temple site, and Kyaukphyu, where Chinese developers are building a new deep-water port and oil and gas pipelines. Aerial photos of Kyaukphyu, acquired by Human Rights Watch, show as many as 800 buildings and boats have been destroyed.

To the west of Rakhine, a government spokesman says entire villages have been razed to the ground. An estimated 6,000 people have fled their homes amid ongoing arson attacks.

“We were basically besieged by Rakhine [Buddhist] mobs and we had to leave our village for our lives,” said Khin Maung, a Rohingya from the town of Kyauktaw.

Newly displaced Rohingyas forced to flee their villages would be relocated to Maungdaw, a Rohingya-majority town near the border with Bangladesh, officials were quoted as telling local media.

The violence could cause damage to Myanmar's recent progress.

“As the international community is closely watching Myanmar’s democratic transition, such unrest could tarnish the image of the country,” said a statement from the office of President Thein Sein, published in the state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper.

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also issued a strongly worded statement, calling on Myanmar authorities to take urgent and effective action to bring Rakhine state under control.

“Vigilante attacks, targeted threats and extremist rhetoric must be stopped...the reform and opening up process currently being pursued could be jeopardized,” said spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Nearly 100 people were killed and close to 70,000 people displaced following the first sectarian clashes in the area starting in June.

Authorities have forcefully segregated the two communities but tensions have been running high following recent Buddhist protests led by monks opposed to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation setting up a liaison office in Myanmar.

Muslim leaders in Yangon said earlier this week they would not celebrate the Eid holiday  in protest at a perceived lack of government protection.

Related reports

Muslim leaders call Eid protest
Fresh fighting kills three in Rakhine
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