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Burma Denies Reports of Violence Against Muslims

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has denied a report that security forces and a Buddhist mob attacked ethnic Rohingya Muslims this week, leaving up to 60 people dead in western Rakhine state.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told VOA's Burmese service Friday that he has personally checked into the story, which was first reported by the Associated Press.

"I saw this story on AP and have been in contact myself with the deputy minister for internal affairs, the local police chief and the (Rakhine) State government. There was no such event as reported by the AP. I wonder why AP easily reports this story without confirming it with me."

However, he went on to say one police officer disappeared during a confrontation with Muslims in the village of Du Chee Yar Tan.

Human rights activists say violence broke out earlier this week when villagers clashed with police.

Chris Lewa, of the Arakan Project, told VOA that her group confirmed the violence during talks with villagers and officials on the ground. She said the only mystery is who was responsible.

"That's the problem. I think, the attitude of denial always happens. I think there must be some kind of investigation of what has been going on. The problem, of course, is we are in a difficult position to answer that question. We need to try to identify who did this. and that is not clear. But even if it is the Rakhine (local Buddhists) that did it, which sounds the most likely, I think these people must be punished.

The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon has released a statement saying it is deeply troubled and saddened by the reports of violence.

Buddhist-Muslim violence erupted in Rakhine state in 2012 and has since spread to other parts of the country. The sectarian fighting has killed at least 240 people and displaced 140,000 others, mainly Rohingya.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.)

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