Myanmar beefs up security
Security forces flooded western Myanmar Saturday to prevent further outbreaks of sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims which have left at least seven dead, according to state media.
- Published: 9/06/2012 at 10:29 PM
- Newspaper section: breakingnews
Police and military units deployed to Rakhine state - which borders Bangladesh - had "systematically controlled'' unrest, which erupted Friday and saw hundreds of Buddhist villagers' homes set ablaze, state television said.
"Stability has been restored since this morning.''
Unrest flared Friday when at least four Buddhists were killed in riots in Rakhine, home to large numbers of Rohingya, a stateless Muslim group described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.
A second wave of violence swept through remote villages early Saturday, as more Rakhine homes were torched forcing villagers to flee to temporary shelters in Maungdaw town, according to government officials.
Seven people were killed, 17 wounded and nearly 500 houses destroyed during the two days of violence, the state media report said without elaborating on the identity of the victims.
Tensions have soared in Rakhine since 10 Muslims on a bus were killed by an angry Buddhist mob on Sunday, believing mistakenly that the perpetrators of the recent rape and murder of a Rakhine woman were onboard.
It was unclear what sparked the most recent outbreak of violence, with government forces and the Rohingyas trading accusations.
Myanmar, which considers the Rohingya as foreigners and not one of the nation's ethnic groups, has an estimated 750,000 Rohingya, living mainly in Rakhine, according to the UN.
Another one million or more are believed to live in exile in other countries.
Two government officials said armed Rohingya had burned Rakhine villages in the early hours of Saturday.
"They came from the neighbouring country by boats,'' one of the officials told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity, and referring to Bangladesh.
State television later announced that navy ships had been patrolling Myanmar's waters since Saturday morning to head off any further boats carrying members of the Muslim minority.
Rohingya representatives said five of the ethnic group had been killed by government forces who then set fire to Rohingya homes.
"The violence started because security forces opened fire on a group of Rohingyas (on Friday),'' said Abu Tahay, head of the political bureau of the National Democratic Party for Development, which represents Rohingya.
Rohingyas claim decades of persecution by a government that they say views them with suspicion.
Activists say forced labour is common and Rohingyas face discriminatory practices including travel restrictions, limits on family size, and a refusal to issue them passports that leaves them effectively stateless.
Expressing "profound concern'' following the riots, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said tension between Rakhines and Rohingyas had been stoked by a "systematic government policy'' to discriminate against the ethnic group.
Many in Myanmar view the Rohingya with hostility and believe they do not belong in the country.
"We want to say clearly that Rohingya are not one of the Myanmar ethnic nationalities,'' Ko Ko Gyi, a leader of so-called 88 generation student uprising told AFP.
"We do not accept any kind of terrorism. We have a duty to protect any Myanmar citizen that is harmed whatever their religion or ethnicity.''
The violence threatens to overshadow reconciliation efforts following a series of dramatic political reforms that came after the end of almost half a century of military rule last year.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
- Position: News agency