News / Asia

Sectarian Violence Spreads in Burma

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.
Daniel Schearf
Renewed sectarian violence between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine is spreading in Burma’s western Rakhine state.  At least two people were reported killed and there are concerns the death toll may grow.

Authorities say fighting erupted late Tuesday in two more towns, Kyaukpyu and Myebon.

Burma's state media said communal violence has left more than 1,000 homes burned since Sunday.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported two people were killed in the fighting, while unconfirmed reports say casualty figures are much higher.

Al Haji Nyunt Maung Shein is chairman of Burma's Islamic Religious Affairs Council.  He says they received reports as many as 178 Muslims and Buddhists were killed, but were unable to independently confirm the figures.

"Still the violence is going on in Rakhine state, especially in Kyaukpyu area and Myinbya area last night.  And recently they are suffering so much.  And almost all, nearly 2,000 houses are burnt," he said.

The council cancelled celebration of the Islamic religious festival Eid al-Adha out of concern for security.

It is not clear what started this week's unrest.  

Human Rights Watch Burma researcher Matthew Smith says the remoteness of Rakhine state is partly to blame. But he says prejudice also plays a role.

"This is an issue that has not been covered in any sort of adequate way.  And, the sympathies that few people have in the country for the plight of the Rohingya are certainly drowned out by opposing viewpoints," said Smith.

The Rohingya Muslims are not recognized as citizens in Burma, despite many living there for generations.  Most Buddhists in Burma consider them illegal migrants from Bangladesh.  Their legal status leaves them open to exploitation, and the United Nations calls them one of the most abused minorities in the world.  

Toronto-based democracy activist and Burma analyst Vijay Sappani says the government needs to offer the Rohingya better protection.

"I think the long-term solution is to find some form of a citizenship status or some form of a status that can be given to them so that there is a law which is clearly defined and that can be implemented," said Sappani. "The challenge right now is that there is a law that is fairly discriminative and the majority do support it."

The government withdrew an offer last week for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to open an office in Rakhine State, following Buddhist-monk-led protests.

Tensions between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims broke out in June over allegations in state media that Rohingya men raped a Rakhine girl.  A Rakhine mob attacked and killed a busload of Rohingya and spiraling revenge attacks left close to 90 people dead and tens of thousands homeless.

A government appointed investigation commission is to deliver a report on the violence in November.

Victor Beattie in Washington D.C. contributed to this story

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Head: Breach Won't Happen Again

Julia Pierson tells a House panel investigating a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ronald Chakma from: CHT, Bangladesh
October 24, 2012 7:19 AM
I agree with Toronto-based Burma analyst Vijay Sappani, the conflict in Rakhine state is very complicated. It's not as simple as conflict between minority and majority. The Rakhine and Burmese people view the Bengali Muslims at best as illegal immigrants and at worst as invaders. Their view is well justified. The British Imperial Gazette in colonia time described the Muslims of Rakhine as Chittagonian Bengalis. The East India company official Francis Buchanan visited the southern Chittagong or present day Cox's Bazar in 1799. He did not see any Bengali Muslims south of Chittagong city. The inhabitants were mongoloid tribes of Rakhine. Calling the Bengali Muslims of Rakhine as minority is distortion of history and violation of civilized norms.

In Response

by: Nik from: US
October 25, 2012 1:01 PM
Rohingyas were in Arakan before Burma as nation was even formed. Sick is your attempt in trying to justify ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas by the majority buddists. If Rohingyas are invaders then so are American and Australians and many more, I guess according to you they too must meet the same fate then.

In Response

by: Nik from: US
October 25, 2012 12:56 PM
Western nations that also dictate action at UN are preparing military action in Mali under the pretext of simply shrines being destroyed while taking no action against and even continuously allowing ethnic cleansing of Muslim Rohingya men, women and children in Burma. So much for Justice, their motive are clear.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid