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.

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Comments page of 2
by: Paul Nevinson from: USA
August 10, 2012 9:31 AM
...only a handful killed but the violence has misplaced 60,000???????? Must be more, definately more killed if the displacement is that high.
In Response

by: MayH from: USA
August 27, 2012 4:17 PM
Yes, 60,000 misplaced because that is accumulations of over years. This region has long history of tension. The recent communal conflict has created casualty of handful on both sides - that is the truth. You will find thousands figures/fake photos only from Pakistan news sources and blogs - which are trying to make this conflict into Jihad. While I have sympathy for normal Rohingya people, I do not appreciate their leaders' methods of lying and propaganda about their fake history and casualty numbers.Please be aware that their leaders are living comfortably abroad like in UK and getting donations and support, working together with taliban. Pity that this is the kind of tactic they adopt. Won't be getting any thing from Burma soon since they had made wars before to get Islamic state out of Arakan land in the past killing many Arkanese. To simply put, its like 1000 times problem of Maxico problem in US - but with arms and extremism involved in addition to population boom ( 1 Rohingya man has 4 wives and 28 children - and they will say to outside world that they don't have rights to marriage!)
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 10, 2012 10:24 AM
Mr Paul

no govt would acknowledge the wrong doings

please see the videos avaliable on you tube

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