News / Asia

More Than 20 Killed in Sectarian Violence in Burma

Smokes and flames billow from burning buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma, where sectarian violence is ongoing, June 12, 2012.
Smokes and flames billow from burning buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma, where sectarian violence is ongoing, June 12, 2012.
Mike RichmanDanielle Bernstein
More than 20 people have been killed in western Burma's Rakhine State, as international pressure mounts for an end to the sectarian fighting between ethnic-Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.

President Thein Sein has declared a state of emergency and has sent army troops to Rakhine, which has been hit with a wave of rioting and arson in recent days.  Hundreds of homes have been destroyed.

There was a heavy security presence Tuesday in the regional capital, Sittwe, where fires dotted the area amid destroyed homes and shops, and people ran to escape the chaos.  In Maungdaw, residents reported mostly peaceful streets, and 400 kilometers away in Rangoon, police dispersed a small mob of monks.

In predominately Muslim Bangladesh, officials said their border guards have turned back more than 500 Rohingya Muslims trying to flee the fighting.  Bangladesh's Foreign Ministry said it is not in the the country's best interest to allow the Rohingyas entry.

The United States has expressed concern about the situation.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the violence underscores the need to make a serious effort to achieve national reconciliation in Burma.

  • Muslims women and children from villages gather before being relocated to secure areas in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma, where sectarian violence is ongoing, June 12, 2012.
  • Bangladeshi Border Guard soldiers keep watch at a wharf in Taknaf, Bangladesh, June 12, 2012.
  • Sittwe residents flee blazing homes as security forces struggle to contain deadly ethnic and religious violence, June 12, 2012.
  • A Rohingya protester cries as he holds a placard during a rally to call for an end to the ongoing unrest and violence in Burma's Rakhine State, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 12, 2012.
  • Security forces try to restore order in Rakhine state, Burma, after a wave of deadly religious violence, as the United Nations evacuated foreign workers, June 11, 2012.
  • Muslim Rohingya people on a boat cross the river Naf, from Burma into Teknaf, Bangladesh, June 11, 2012.
  • Local residents push a trishaw vehicle carrying their belongings in a village in Sittwe, where sectarian violence is impacting on the local population, June 11, 2012.
  • Rohingya protesters gather in front of a U.N. regional office in Bangkok, Thailand, to call for an end to the ongoing unrest and violence in Burma’s Rakhine State, June 11, 2012.
  • Ethnic Rakhine people get water from a firefighter truck to extinguish fire set to their houses during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe, June 10, 2012.
  • Policemen move towards burning houses during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe, June 10, 2012.
  • Rohingya men are seen among houses set on fire during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe, June 10, 2012.
  • Buddhist monks and ethnic Rakhine people hold placards at Shwedagon pagoda in Rangoon, Burma, June 10, 2012.
  • An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he walks in front of houses that were burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe, June 10, 2012.

Violence Erupts

The violence erupted a week ago when a Buddhist mob in Sittwe ambushed a bus and killed 10 Rohingya passengers, mistakenly believing they were responsible for the recent gang-rape and murder of a Buddhist woman.

According to an official with U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, there are reports that riot police in the region are favoring the ethnic Rakhine over the Rohingya.  He said the government must be more even-handed in resolving the problem.

The Rakhine group has been oppressed by the government for decades, but domestic media coverage of the riots has been tilted against the Rohingya population.  State-backed media and private news outlets have reported on the conflict using terms derogatory to the Rohingya.
 
Robertson said the violence has the potential to "significantly tarnish the reformist credentials" of Burma's new nominally civilian government if authorities do not bring the fighting under control.  Burma's military rulers transferred power to the new government last year.

x
President Thein Sein, too, warned that the violence could jeopardize the country's nascent reform process.  He said the unrest is fueled by "hatred and revenge based on religion and nationality," and he noted that it could spread to other parts of the country.  If that happens, he said the country's stability, peace, and democratization process could be severely affected.

But Lex Rieffell, a non-resident senior fellow at the U.S.-based Brookings Institution, said it is unclear how challenging the violence would be to the new Burmese government.

“There’s no simple answer to that question," said Rieffel.  "I think we can only hope and pray that it’s easy.  That people sort of come to their senses and realize that there’s no reason to … that there are other ways of dealing with differences than killing each other.”

Not Unique to Burma

Rieffel pointed out that this type of violence happens in countries other than Burma.  

“We’ve seen this kind of communal violence in many parts of the world," he said.  "The country I deal a lot with is Indonesia, and Indonesia has had some horrible episodes of communal violence and still this year continues to have horrible communal violence issues.  Thailand, look at Thailand, southern Thailand.  Look at the Philippines, [the island of] Mindanao, look at India.  I mean this is hardly unique to Burma.”

The unrest has highlighted long-standing tensions between Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims.  Burma does not classify its estimated 800,000 Rohingyas as Burmese citizens, instead regarding them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

Rohingya activist and scholar Knurl Islam said there is long history of trying to exclude the Rohingya in Rakhine.
 
"We are two communities," said Islam.  "We have been living together for a long time, we are still living together.  We have to live together, we know it.  But they do not want Muslims, they say we are illegal immigrants, we have nothing to do in their country."

Richman reported from Washington and Bernstein from Bangkok.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: V.Lynn from: Myanmar
June 14, 2012 1:30 AM
To VOA,
Rohingya are minority immigrants and who do currently terrorism. In this Riot between Rohingya and Rakhine (Myanmar Nationality), both side have been doing killing. But all VOA care about is the suffering of Rohingya and not Rakhine. We Myanmar People hope to see some Love from VOA. Be a good media for us which clear of bias or some favoring. Welcome to Myanmar to all yours media men, and shoot some news in video to report the world more stable News. We really hope shooting Video to both parties and making interviews also with both.

Thank you for yours caring VOA..

P.S. We think VOA is now broadcasting and reporting wrong news about Myanmar to the world. That is our opinion, and you take it or not is up to you.


by: Kyaw Win from: Myanmar
June 13, 2012 5:30 PM
In your photo Caption, They are Rakhinese. Rakhinese are Buddhists.


by: Kyaw Win from: Myanmar
June 13, 2012 5:24 PM
RohinJa are illegal immigrants are terrorists absolutely. That is the answer for this event.
Hello, VOA...u published wrong Caption with photo.
In this your news photo, they are Rakhinese and not Rohinja.
In this event, Rakhinese are attacked by Rohinja and so Rakhinese need for help.
Rohinja are terrorists and please edit your news.


by: Abu Lahab
June 13, 2012 4:45 PM
"Stop the genocide" poster held up by a couple of mullahs takes the cake for me. They do play the victim card well. Both sides are doing the killing, so how is it genocide?


by: Yangon Thu from: yangon
June 13, 2012 5:47 AM
A Burmese’s (Myanmar’s) request to all Medias : “Stop Pushing a Religion War to my Country”


by: Aung Ko Oo from: Tokyo
June 13, 2012 2:31 AM
Starting on 8th June, 2012, there are riots breaking out between Bengali Rohingyas and native Arakaneses in in Buthedaung and Maungdaw of Arakan State, Myanmar (Burma). BBC, CNN and international media are presenting and publishing news that Burmese Military junta and native Arakan people are using brutal force upon illegal immigrants from Bangladesh called “Rohingya”. Illegal immigrants from Bangladesh called “Rohingya” and mischievous provocation of some international communities. Therefore, such interfering efforts by some powerful nations on this issue (Rohingya issue), without fully understanding the ethnic groups and other situations of Burma, will be viewed as offending the sovereignty of our nation. Genetically, culturally and linguistically Rohingya is not absolutely related to any ethnicity in Myanmar.


by: NilaElect from: Myanmar
June 13, 2012 12:12 AM
I would say, we Myanmar People are not Islamophobia.
We are trying to protect our motherland and against Rohinja terrorist :distorted Islam. Maungdaw, in Rakhine State Rohinja are majority and Rakhine people are minority. Dozens of Rakhine people were killed amidst the Rohingya terrorist attacks in Maungdaw, Rakhine State, the western part of Myanmar. Due to the violence, hundreds of houses and buildings were burnt down by Rohinja terrorist. Rohingya mobs were setting fire on the nearby villages of Rakhine ethnics.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid