News / Asia

As Burma Violence Continues, Warnings of Broader Instability

Muslims gather at Thechaung refugee camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Burma, October 29, 2012.
Muslims gather at Thechaung refugee camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Burma, October 29, 2012.
Daniel Schearf
Authorities in Burma say they are working to restore calm to western Rakhine state after a week of sectarian violence left nearly 100 people dead, destroyed thousands of homes and displaced 30,000 people, the vast majority of them Muslim. Amid reports of continuing clashes, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has expressed concern the instability could spread.

Burma officials on Tuesday said thousands of security officers are trying to restore order in western Rakhine state, following clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.

A spokesman for Rakhine state, Win Myaing, told VOA's Burmese Service the situation was under control. But activists and aid groups Tuesday received reports of renewed fighting from remote areas. Details could not immediately be confirmed.

Burma map, state of RakhineBurma map, state of Rakhine
x
Burma map, state of Rakhine
Burma map, state of Rakhine
Rights groups say authorities should have done a better job to prevent the latest violence following the clashes in June that led to increased security and a state of emergency.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, says the government response was slow and inadequate.

“It's very very worrisome that the government cannot get this situation under control," he said. "And, part of it I think is that they don't yet have the political commitment to address the root causes of these problems which is the discriminatory policy against the Rohingya that keeps them in such a helpless situation but also the growing movement towards de facto segregation with Rohingya increasingly confined to Internally Displaced Persons camps.”

The United Nations quotes government figures showing the Rohingya suffered the brunt from the week of fighting.

While hundreds of Buddhists were displaced, and dozens of their homes destroyed, more than 27,000 Muslims were pushed out and some 4,000 lost their homes. Entire Muslim villages were burned to the ground. It is still not clear what started the latest round of fighting.

Many Rohingya fled the coast of Rakhine state by boat and made their way to crowded camps in the capital Sittwe.

A boat is framed by the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a part of Pauktaw township that was burned in recent violence in Rakhine state, Burma, October 27, 2012.A boat is framed by the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a part of Pauktaw township that was burned in recent violence in Rakhine state, Burma, October 27, 2012.
x
A boat is framed by the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a part of Pauktaw township that was burned in recent violence in Rakhine state, Burma, October 27, 2012.
A boat is framed by the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a part of Pauktaw township that was burned in recent violence in Rakhine state, Burma, October 27, 2012.
Maeve Murphy, head of the U.N. refugee agency's office in Sittwe, says there were already 75,000 internally displaced people in the camps from earlier clashes in June. She says aid agencies do not have enough supplies on the ground and are stretched to capacity trying to help those who fled the violence.

"Obviously, they're very terrified. It is very difficult, considering the number of incidents that are taking place," she said. "We are gathering all of the information that we can and we are actively, as UNHCR and all of the humanitarian actors, trying to put together a humanitarian response as soon as possible."

Murphy says they are working as fast as possible to get more supplies and with the government to distribute food and temporary shelters.

Some Rohingya, who speak a dialect of Bengali, tried to flee to Bangladesh. But the border remains closed, despite appeals from the UNHCR to authorities in Dhaka.

Robertson says the Organization of Islamic Cooperation should pressure Bangladesh on the issue.

This picture taken on October 10, 2012 shows an elderly Muslim Rohingya man pictured outside his tent at the Dabang Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Burma's western Rakhine state.This picture taken on October 10, 2012 shows an elderly Muslim Rohingya man pictured outside his tent at the Dabang Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Burma's western Rakhine state.
x
This picture taken on October 10, 2012 shows an elderly Muslim Rohingya man pictured outside his tent at the Dabang Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Burma's western Rakhine state.
This picture taken on October 10, 2012 shows an elderly Muslim Rohingya man pictured outside his tent at the Dabang Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Burma's western Rakhine state.
“The actions by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government towards the Rohingya are nothing short of shameful," said Robertson. "The OIC should be calling out its member Bangladesh for failing to provide basic protections for these fleeing Muslim Rohingya. You know, Bangladesh is essentially defying the international community and getting away with it.”

The secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Tuesday expressed concern the instability, if not checked, could spread beyond Burma. At a speech in Kuala Lumpur, Surin Pitsuwan said ASEAN and the international community should encourage political reconciliation in Burma.

The Rohingya in Burma number around 800,000 but are not recognized as citizens and have few legal rights. Most people in Burma consider them illegal migrants and refer to them as Bengalis. The U.N. considers them one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: john from: german
October 30, 2012 10:15 PM
It's known that the violence was caused by the event the muslim raped the buddhism girl. Dozen years ago the Burma was so kind that they helped the muslim refugees from neighboring country Bengal and help them settle in Rohingya. However, the refugees refuse to leave and brutely hurt the local people after living for years.It's reasonable Burma consider them illegal migrants and refer to them as Bengalis, actually they are refugees from Bengalis

by: indian from: mumbai
October 30, 2012 12:16 PM
Go, Burma, GO!

by: Neil
October 30, 2012 11:45 AM
The problem is authority itself and general public. Religious and racial hatred are encouraged by most of Burmese officials and juntas. Only verbal racial abuses are common in cities like Yangon where literate people are more common. In remote location, uneducated people are always manipulated by government. Both Rakhine and Muslims population are oppressed by Burmese officials. Rakhine is the only groups which can't afford to engage any war activities with Burmese military government. We need to watch that all of these are the well-planned by former juntas to regain the throne.
In Response

by: Al-Lahab
October 30, 2012 1:43 PM
"In remote location, uneducated people are always manipulated by government."
You forgot to add religion.
"We need to watch that all of these are the well-planned by former juntas to regain the throne."
Or it could be have easily been well-planned by mullahs and imams.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More