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Rakhines burn Rohingya homes: villagers

UN calls for independent investigation to ongoing ethnic conflict in Rakhine state

Rohingyas are transported in an army truck from a village to a refugee camp in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in June Rohingyas are transported in an army truck from a village to a refugee camp in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in June
  • Daniel Wynn, Yangon
  • Myanmar
  • August 6, 2012
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Violence between ethnic Rakhines and stateless Rohingya Muslims flared again yesterday in western Myanmar, the day after a top UN official called for an inquiry into allegations of excessive use of force by the army during the crackdown on sectarian violence between the two communities.

Nearly 200 houses of Rohingya Muslims were burned down allegedly by Rakhines in the villages of Gotepi Tawk and Apout Wa in Kyauktaw township in Rakhine state, according to local sources.

“Hundreds of Rohingyas were fleeing to other nearby Rohingya villages, and the attack was completely unprovoked,” Kyaw Win, a Rohingya from one of the villages, said by phone yesterday.

It is not clear what sparked the attack. A local Rakhine man in the area, Shwe Maung, said a boat from Bangladesh suspected of carrying armed Rohingyas arrived near the villages early yesterday. Rakhines sought an explanation from local Rohingyas about the boat, but received no answer and consequently attacked the villages, he said.

A police official in the area said security forces dispersed the crowd attacking the villages and arrested the individuals who committed the arson attacks.

The incident came a day after the UN special rapporteur for human rights, Tomas Ojea Quintana, visited the region to assess the sectarian conflict between the two communities, which started in early June, and the alleged mass killings of Rohingyas during an army crackdown on the conflict.

Quintana called for an urgent independent investigation into the violence in Rakhine state, which he said was one of many human rights challenges facing the country.

"I am concerned... at the allegations I have received of serious human rights violations committed as part of measures to restore law and order," Quintana said in a statement at the end of a six-day visit to Myanmar as he left Yangon airport Saturday.

"While I am in no position to be able to verify these allegations at this point in time, they are of grave concern. It is therefore of fundamental importance to clearly establish what has happened in Rakhine state and to ensure accountability,” he said.

At least 78 people have been killed and thousands left homeless during the conflict, according to the Myanmar government, which does not recognize citizenship for the Rohingya minority living in this region near the border with Bangladesh.

In a report last week, New York-based Human Rights Watch called the government's figures "undoubtedly conservative" and accused government forces of opening fire on crowds of Rohingya and committing other atrocities during their attempts to restore order.

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