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Buddhist Mob Attacks Muslims in Western Burma; 2 Killed

  • VOA News

Residents of a town in western Burma say a Buddhist mob has gone on a rampage against local Muslims, killing two people.

The residents told VOA's Burmese service the outbreak of sectarian violence came Tuesday, in and around the town of Thandwe in Rakhine state.

They accused Burmese police and military personnel of standing by as hundreds of Buddhist rioters burned down more than 70 houses, leaving villagers of the Kaman Muslim minority in a state of fear.

Local authorities told Western news agencies that one of those killed in the rampage was a 94-year-old woman who was stabbed to death. The Burmese government did not confirm any casualties from the unrest.

Burmese President Thein Sein arrived in Rakhine's capital Sittwe on Tuesday, marking his first visit to the troubled state since he took office in 2011.

Reuters said he met with local elders in the nearby town of Kyauktaw and told them that he believes "military and police control is not enough" to deal with Buddhist-Muslim fighting.

The news agency quoted Thein Sein as saying "killings and violence will cease only when you yourselves play a part in controlling this." An official said the president will visit Thandwe on Wednesday to address the conflict there.

Sectarian clashes have killed at least 240 people since they erupted in Rakhine in June 2012 and later spread to other parts of Burma. Most of the killings have happened in Rakhine, home to several Muslim minorities, including stateless Rohingyas.

Critics accuse Thein Sein of failing to take action against radical Buddhists who incite hatred toward Muslims.

The International Crisis Group, a private institute that researches global conflicts, called on the government to deal with the root cause of the unrest.

The group said "those who are spreading messages of intolerance and hatred must not go unchallenged." It warned that continuing violence could tarnish Burma's international image and "threaten the success" of its transition away from decades of authoritarianism.