News / Asia

Burma: Sectarian Violence Not About Race or Religion

A man walks through a neighborhood that was burnt in recent violence in Sittwe, June 16, 2012.
A man walks through a neighborhood that was burnt in recent violence in Sittwe, June 16, 2012.
VOA News
Burmese President Thein Sein says the recent deadly communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma's western Rakhine state "has nothing to do with race or religion."

The president made his comments Thursday while hosting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is in the country to offer aid for the tens of thousands who have been displaced in the conflict.  President Thein Sein says the unrest was ignited by the brutal murder of a girl and the desire for revenge against those who committed the crime.

Sectarian violence between ethnic Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists has killed dozens since late May, according to official figures. But some rights groups and media reports suggest the figure may be higher.

President Thein Sein dismissed such speculation in comments carried Friday by the state-controlled New Light of Myanmar, saying he was "disheartened by the hairsplitting of the media." He insisted that only 77 people - 31 Rakhine and 46 Rohingya - have died.

Before leaving for Burma, Foreign Minister Davutoglu said he had received "conflicting information" regarding casualty figures in Rakhine state, telling reporters he has spoken with religious leaders who say thousands have died.

The violence broke out in late May after three Muslim men were accused of raping and murdering a young Buddhist woman and 10 Muslims were killed in an apparent revenge attack.

The issue has prompted a wave of criticism by Muslim-majority nations, some of whom view the conflict as a case of religious persecution against the Rohingya. The Saudi-based Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has also urged a probe into the violence.

Rights groups have also called for Burma to do more to protect the Rohingya, most of whom are denied citizenship. Human Rights Watch said in a recent report that Burmese security forces have committed killings, rape, and mass arrests against the group in the aftermath of the sectarian violence.

Burma has denied the accusations, saying its security forces acted with restraint after moving quickly to put an end to the riots. It says it is working to provide relief to the 60,000 people left homeless from the conflict.

President Thein Sein on Thursday welcomed the $50 million aid donation by Turkey. He also said he would welcome a visit by the OIC leaders so they can "witness the reality" in Rakhine.

The state has seen a heavy police presence since June, when a state of emergency rule was declared to end the violence. Some rights say the conflict threatens to put a damper on the recent political and economic reforms carried out by Burma's nominally civilian government.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Nik from: US
August 13, 2012 4:07 PM
It does not matter whether the riots are about 'race or religion'. The fact is the Rohingyas are being singled out by Burma for persecution, killings, rape and other forms of oppression for decades while the west decides to turns a blind eye towards the ethnic cleansing. Burma invaded Arakan (today's Rohine) in 1700s followed by the British who invaded Burma. When British were leaving after WWII Rohingyas asked for freedom from their invaders (Burma) as a result to this day Burma has decided to kill all Rohingyas while keeping their land. Arakan must be made into a free nation independent from Burma. If this can happen to Sudan why not Burma. Or is getting freedom ultimately always about race and religion.
In Response

by: md irfan khan from: new delhi india
August 15, 2012 4:51 PM
i am agree with this,,,,,,,
what ever is done in burma with the all public i am not saying about muslim because we only know that who is muslim and who is buddhas or any other cast or religion but what about the little baby who actually don't know about him self what is he.....?
everybody should know that god is great but not blind....
be ready all burmas buddhas people because you did wrong and you will get result soon by the god....Inshallah..
In Response

by: Hashmat Ali from: Pakistan
August 14, 2012 3:10 PM
Nik, a positive point. I strongly agree

by: afif from: Aceh
August 12, 2012 10:26 PM
Hellle Dalailama Hellu Aung San Su Ki where are your voices?

by: Khin Khin Hlaing from: Myanmar
August 12, 2012 12:14 PM
Rakhine leaders gathered poor Rakhine from rural area of each town and from other towns of Rakhine State by showing lot of benefit. These gathered Rakhine people are placed in three different places as refugee; 1 in Myo Ma Kayen Den temple, 2 in Alley Than Kyaw and 3 in Sittwe.

These gathered Rakhine people are really getting benefits as their leaders committed them. For example, NLD party donated 20 million MMK to those created Rakhine refugees only not to any single Rohingya. It is more then sure that the 50 million US$ donated to Thein Sein by Turkey will go to those Rakhine created refugee only.

In one hand, those created Rakhine camps are good to show to any external visitors like Turkey foreing minister. On the other hand, the real and entitled Rohingya victims cannot be organized in a place if to do so, the Thein Sein government arrests mass Rohingya people, kills those who try to lead and organize for such matters.

Thein Sein is welcoming the OIC and saying that the OIC could see the reality of Rakhine State. What is the reallity of Rakhine State? The reallity is; Thousands of Rohingya people are killed by Loontin, police and the hitory lier Rakhine in Sittwee on 9, 10, 11 June 2012 and in Maungdaw on 8,9 June.

Rakhine Lontin police and Rohingya fight was stopped by military, afterwards the Rohingya like Amir saab, Molvi, INGO workers, UN workers, rich people, educated people and ex political leaders are being arrested by the Thein Sein government up till today.

If Thein Sein really wants to show the reallity of Rakhine State and really wants to avoid from the fake presentation to the external visitors, the external visitors should be allowed to check some keypoints stated belows;
1. The simple Rohingya (who is not in Government plan) should able to express their emotional feelings to external visitors freely without any authority person (It is hard to organize but possible).
2. The family lists of those created Rakhine refugee should be seen by the external visitors and what really was happened in their original native during the time.
3. The external visitors should see the NRS Rohingya population whether increased or decrease in last 20 years.
4. Being are provided with national registration family list, some members of the family are cut from the list and why? and so on...

by: kicca from: Cairo
August 12, 2012 7:48 AM
the same speech of President Morsi about violent sectarian clashes in Dahshur 40 km from Cairo, against Copts families.

by: Michael from: Bangkok
August 11, 2012 10:09 PM
I might add that the Pakistanis are doing their best to make this into yet another jihad, as though they need yet another. A Mr. Khalid has launched several "newsletters" written in a way to convince the gullible that terrible crimes are being committed in Burma against Muslimswhich are solely intended to inflame whatever is chosen and the Royhinga problem is now prime. He claims hundreds murdered and their homes burned by the army--sensational claims not substantiated by any legitimate coverage. New jihad ahead! All part of the Moslem global uprising. Check out:
In Response

by: Hashmat Ali from: Pakistan
August 14, 2012 3:19 PM
If, US attacks Iraq, that is fine ? if US attacks afghanistan, that is fine, keep in mind the history of these two states and how JIHAD was exploited by US in these two countries.
Now when Muslims are showing solidarity to their muslim brethren, you have problems with it ?
just remove the muslim part and imagine for a split second, which I am sure you can be unbiased for this much time, that Humans are showing solidarity to other humans.
we Pakistanis are helping US and the international forces against extremists and terrorists and you should not call them jihadist or whatever you gave a name to them.
and yes, if the world is so sane then you should tell the world to stop converting to ISLAM as it is the fastest spreading religion around the world.

at the end i would recommend and suggest you that please stop thinking in perspective of religion because not a single religion teaches violence and yes I am talking about religions not cults. So please stay unbiased and remain human.

P.S. before commenting on us Muslims, please do read our SCRIPTURE then say whatever you want.

by: Anonymous
August 11, 2012 8:43 PM
It is not whom you point your finger to, it is how you solve the problems if you do find a way ti solve them.

by: omair from: mumbai
August 11, 2012 1:50 AM
...this is the politics to finish up muslims or to halt the population of muslims.
but i ensure that more u try to destroy...
ALLAH will make more it populated
In Response

by: to omair from: usa
August 12, 2012 3:36 AM
you are right thank you

by: Michael Greenwald from: bangkok
August 10, 2012 9:44 PM
Apparently president President Thein Sein is not well acquainted with the history of the Rohynga, originally known as the Chittagonians, named after the Indian state of Chittagong from which most of them came. They started drifting into Burma late in the 19th century, driven by over-population/starvation in their country, which was then India (later East Pakistan and now Bangladesh).

Their incursion vastly increased the population of Arrakan and Sittwe and strained the infrastructure and food supply. They looked like East Indians, did not speak the same language and did not assimilate with the locals who were Buddhists. This failure to assimilate persists today and is a root cause of the problem.

In 1942 there was a Muslim uprising, followed by 1948 Bengali-Muslims’ Mujahid Insurgency which started after after the central government refused to grant a separate Muslim state in Rhankine Provence. Once the Mujadi rebellion started the armed Bengali-Muslims killed most of the Yakhine Buddhists and destroyed all the Yakhin villages in the Maungdaw-North region.

Martial Law was declared in 1948 November as the rebellion greatly intensified and the rebels even surrounded the towns of Butheetaung and Baw-li-bazar. During the uprising the Royhinga flew the Pakistani flag and attempted to separate the northern provinces from Burma. The Royhinga used ethnic cleansing as their tool and then occupied the villages of the dispossessed.

The matter finally came to a head when a British officer was killed after which the Burma Rifles were sent in and insurrection was put down, with considerable killing on both sides. So, the Burmese look upon the Royhinga as invaders and usurpers who refuse to accept Burmese culture, here has been bad blood between the groups ever since.

The Muslim people seem particularly good at cloaking themselves in the mantel of the belligerent victim but in this case (as is so often the case) there is plenty of blame to go around.

Read more about it at:

In Response

by: Conscience from: USA
August 13, 2012 9:20 PM
To Mr. Michael Greenwald you forgot one crucial part. Rohingyas were living in Arakan for CENTURIES. Back then it was part of India so it is only normal people get to travel to different state. Bangladesh has different shares of ethnic people who speaks, look and follows a different culture. India is a prime example of different ethnic mix. Complaining about this is like saying, Chinese should get out of Malaysia or Indians from Singapore, even The Mexicans (the native ones) should get out from Texas after Mexican-American war or they will be wiped out from the county by any means necessary. Only difference is that Rohingyas are poor and weak, so they are the sacrificial lambs. Let's not forget THOUSANDS of people are killed already and thousands are on the verge of death. They are in worse condition than a rock and a hard place. If you don't feel anything within your conscience, I don't know what to say. Even a monster admits to wrong doing sometimes.

To Human from: USA: Seriously I feel sorry for you. Your soul has been so blacken by hatred that you lost your conscience. That torching of train in Gujrat was part of a strategic ethnic cleansing staged by then ruling party. There are still controversies regarding whether or not if the fire was started deliberately or by accident inside the train itself. The politicians, especially Narendra Modi added fueled to the fire to gain political upper hand. If you blindly follow a politicians out of hatred or other means, what makes you so different than a zombie?
In Response

by: Human from: USA
August 12, 2012 10:54 AM
I agree with Mr. Greenwald's assessment. Regardless of what happened in the 19th Century, the Muslim person should not have raped the Buddhist girl. Muslims in India did the same thing when they torched a rail car full of Hindu pilgrims in the State of Gujarat. Hindus did not tolerate this act of violence so they went after the Muslims for revenge. Eye for an eye (Muslims belive in this). Minister Modi was correct in not stopping the communal violence because if the act of agression was not taken care of, then there would be more violence. It at least put these Muslims in their place. If they do not like it in India or Burma, then go to Saudi Arabia or some other dictatorship country.

I am for the Buddhist people of Burma. These people are peaceful and the Muslims brings the worst out of this country.

by: Human from: india
August 10, 2012 7:52 PM
No government would accept their wrong doings. That's why it's called politics.
However, This absurd statements can't hide the truth. Every one is well aware of the facts that the government has played the role of a spectator and the militay as the demolisher.
Not sure whether the act was aganist Rohingyas or Muslims
but in any ways killings thousands of people including childrens and women cannot be justified.
I even doubt about the money send for aid but still hope it reaches to the people that got affected by this cruel gesture of humanity.

by: Anonymus from: India
August 10, 2012 1:20 PM
I was told that Muslims were killed in thousands! Hope that's not true!
In Response

by: irfan from: delhi
August 15, 2012 5:22 PM
if it has been happened with hindus then what will india act....

(why india, bangladesh, pakistan are silence,,,,,?) i hope the humanity is died only the religion is alive..... shame on it to all muslim and burmas nearby countrys
In Response

by: Human from: Canada
August 11, 2012 7:28 PM
of course it could be true.. in Srebrenica (bosnia) 8700+ people were killed within 3 days.
In Response

by: Bluegrass Picker from: Afula
August 11, 2012 12:14 PM
killing "thousands" takes more time than that. Look how long it took to reach the casulty figures in Syria; that was using heavy military weapons like artillery and tanks and rockets. You cannot hide thousands of bodies. Where are they all?
In Response

by: jocole from: Ragoon
August 11, 2012 8:01 AM
Yes, .. really did not true.
In Response

by: sandeep from: chand
August 10, 2012 8:14 PM
It is right........ .Around 30000 muslims killed...
In Response

by: Pyi Chit from: UK
August 10, 2012 7:23 PM
Can you believe fabricated stories of 20, 000 dead? Without the names of even ten victims listed?
Comments page of 2

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs