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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs