News / Asia

Burma’s Rakhine State Still in Turmoil

Policemen walk towards burning buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma, where sectarian violence is ongoing, June 12, 2012.
Policemen walk towards burning buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma, where sectarian violence is ongoing, June 12, 2012.
BANGKOK - Continuing tension in Burma’s Rakhine state has observers worried the ethnic and sectarian conflict could spread. 
Sectarian violence continues in Sittwe, Burma, where ethnic Rakhine residents told VOA by phone that fires are still burning, destroying homes and shops as ethnic Rohingya flee riot police.
In Maungdaw, residents reported mostly peaceful streets, and 400 kilometers away in Rangoon, a small mob of monks was quickly dispersed by police at Sule Pagoda.
The violence has led to fears that conflict could re-ignite old ethnic feuds.

  • 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.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson says there are reports riot police deployed to the region are favoring the ethnic Rakhine over the Rohingya.  He says the government must be more even-handed in resolving the problem.
"Certainly it has the potential to significantly tarnish the reformist credentials of this government if they are not able to resolve this very serious sectarian violence,” said Robertson.
Robertson says that with Burma’s many different ethnic groups, the country’s future depends on becoming a democratic, progressive, multi-ethnic state.
“There are just too many ethnic groups living close together for this kind of violence between two ethnic groups to be allowed," he said. "Because unfortunately it will empower extremists who have grievances against other ethnic groups, that is the danger here."
Although the Rakhine ethnic group has suffered oppression at the hands of the government for decades, 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 derogatory terms for Rohingya.
Speaking from London, Rohingya activist and scholar Knurl Islam says there is long history of trying to exclude the Rohingya in Rakhine.
"We are two communities.  We have been living together for a long time, we are still living together," said Islam. "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."

Many Rakhine consider the Rohingya relative newcomers from Bangladesh who do not qualify for Burmese citizenship.  

A member of the Rakhine Nationalities Development political party, Hula Saw, says Rohingya have long sought rights they do not deserve.
“We have to give them their due human rights, but we do not accept them as having nationality rights,” said Saw.
As violence continues, many Rohingya are reported to be fleeing the state by boat and by land.  Bangladesh has not opened its borders to those fleeing the conflict.

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Comment Sorting
by: Khine from: Yangon
July 06, 2012 6:49 AM
International Community must strongly denounce so-called Rohingya Bengali committing heinous crimes of terrorising, killing, looting and burning villages of Buddhist BurmeseArakanese”. So-called Rohingya Bengali Muslims are allegedly linked with Islamist Terrorists around the world including Taliban. These so-called Rohingya are Bengali illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. So-called Rohingya Bengali Muslims had massacre tens of thousands of Burmese Buddhist Arakanese people in the past. With the support of the global networks of extremist Islamic terrorists, (Bangladesh and Pakistan in the past and may be so far), and the Islamic world, these so-called Rohingya Bengali Muslims hold up the arms fighting against Burmese central government demanding for a separate Islamic state. In western Burma, in Maung-Daw Township where Burma shares the border with Bangladesh, got 98% population are Bengali Muslims. Rohingya Bengali Muslims are targeting peaceful Burmese Arakanese Buddhist minority in Maung-Daw by setting fire on Buddhist Arakanese Burmese villages, Buddhist houses and Buddhist monasteries. All Burmese Buddhist Arakanese have to flee from the attack of so-called Rohingya Bengali Muslims’ atrocities. So far more than 30 villages have been burnt down to ashes and so-called Rohingya Muslim Bengalis are targeting all non-Bengalis. We denounce these terrorists’ acts and we call for international community to denounce these terrorist acts of so-called Rohingya Muslim Bengali.

by: michael from: Australia
June 16, 2012 4:44 AM
As a burmese,I'm shame for our government,lack of protecting Burma territory & their citizen.we have had lost one island government knew that,we will loose intire country if not acting this time,I want to suggest government to deploy immigration,police&troops to Rakhine state to protect our border,we need to protect our border,seriously

by: rubel from: bangladesh
June 13, 2012 11:28 PM
hey, world-mass we all know that the buddish in the world r a peaceful nation but now we watch it is a great worst and furious nation , in my own witness a great number of ROHYNGA has come to BANGLADESH from BURMA being serious injure and at least 150 ROHYNGA have been killed by RAKHAIN in the presence of BURMA's state force and many houses of ROHYNGA have been burnt.IS IT HUMANITY??????????

by: Ja from: Kitchener
June 13, 2012 9:51 AM
Joint Press Release
9th June 2012
We, the Rohingya organisations express our deep concern over the ongoing grave situation in Arakan causing great consternation to the people. It appears that the communal tension arising out of the lack of rule of law in Arakan was engineered by the regime and its local Arakan State apparatus. This was further evident by the gunning down of Rohingya Muslims who were peacefully marching for a prayer for those Muslim pilgrims cruelly killed by Rakhine terrorists in Taunggup on 3 June 2012.

However, it is deplorable that there have been killing of innocent people, destruction of houses and properties from both sides which could be well prevented by the government. At least 100 innocent Rohingyas were believed to have been killed while many others injured. Never the less, the government of U Thein Sein is fully responsible for the untoward situation. We demand that the government immediately constitutes an independent and impartial inquiry commission to investigate the case and bring the culprits to justice.

by: Anonymous
June 12, 2012 11:19 AM
I think anyone dealing with current issues like this is also looking for ways to handle their future, finances, and even retirement in successful ways. One interesting story I found today that talked about this issue is an intriguing write-up about a wealthy boss that decided to do something different with his career. He left Newmont Mining, a $6.5B company, to join a tiny mining company. Very inspiring story that dovetails many of the themes here, I figured you might like it:

by: Son of Burma
June 12, 2012 10:51 AM
Human Rights Watch: With all due respect, please understand that the government authorities are trying to protect TRUE ethnic Rakhines from Rohingya terrorists. We will talk about "even-handedness" in resolving ethnic issues when Gaza Strip is freed, Chechnya is liberated and Guantanamo is shutdown.
"Like all other nations, we have minority problems. But they are our problems, not yours." - Mahatma Gandhi.

by: winthan from: USA
June 12, 2012 10:13 AM
Actually, there is no “Rohingya” Muslims in Arakan State; the Burmese people never recognized them as legal residents in Burma. Corrupted Burmese Government took bribery from those illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and issued Burmese ID cards. Back in 1970, they also issued those illegal immigrants to the right to vote for U Nu’s Presidential election (who won). After his election win, the corrupted government allowed more illegal immigrants to come in. Then those illegal immigrants gave money to government in-exchange for Burmese ID cards. Those illegal Muslims are trying to make so called name “Rohingya”, and they are now trying to demand the land and they are now destroying the land of Arakan.

by: John Dee from: USA
June 12, 2012 7:11 AM
Violent Buddhists? That's a new one...

by: cbritt from: canada
June 12, 2012 7:10 AM
Looks like a strategic place to have a US-NATO base right on the border of China. Hmmmmm

"U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday she is deeply concerned about the situation. She is calling for a transparent investigation into the violence and says the situation underscores the need for "serious efforts to achieve national reconciliation in Burma."

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