Home | Global News | Survivors of riots criticize Myanmar gov’t apathy

Survivors of riots criticize Myanmar gov’t apathy

Last Updated : Tuesday, October 30, 2012 12:20 AM
Muslims gather at Thechaung refugee camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, Monday. An estimated 27,300 of the 28,000 newly displaced are Muslims. — AP

SITTWE, Myanmar — Survivors of ethnic clashes in western Myanmar Monday lashed out at the government for failing to prevent violence between Muslims and Buddhists that has displaced more than 28,000 people over the last week.

The crisis, which first began in June, has raised international concern and posed one of the biggest challenges yet to Myanmar’s reformist President Thein Sein, who inherited power from a xenophobic military junta last year.

The latest violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims began Oct. 21 and has left at least 84 people dead and 129 injured, according to the government. Human rights groups believe the true toll could be far higher.

“The authorities are not solving the problem and soldiers are not defending us,” said Kyaw Myint, a Muslim man who took refuge at Thechaung camp outside Sittwe. He fled his home in nearby Pauktaw when it was torched Wednesday.

“I feel as though I am in hell,” he said. “We have no one to take care of us, no place to go, and now no job to earn a living.”

A 37-year-old Rakhine trader named Maung Than Naing, reached by phone in the village of Kyauktaw, also expressed anger over the government’s handling of the violence. “We are helpless because the government is not dealing with the root of the problem,” he said. “We no longer want to live with the Muslims.”

A tense calm has held across the region since Saturday, Rakhine state spokesman Myo Thant said.

Security had been stepped up in the state, with additional police and soldiers deployed, but he declined to give details.

The priority now is to ensure those who lost homes have adequate shelter and food, Myo Thant said.

The long-brewing conflict is rooted in a dispute over the Muslim residents’ origin. Although many Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, they are widely denigrated as intruders who came from neighboring Bangladesh to steal scarce land.

The Rohingya also face official discrimination, a policy encouraged by Myanmar’s previous military regimes to enlist popular support among other groups. A 1982 law formally excluded them as one of the country’s 135 ethnicities, meaning most are denied basic civil rights and are deprived of citizenship.

Human rights groups say racism also plays a role: Many Rohingya, who speak a Bengali dialect and resemble Muslim Bangladeshis, have darker skin and are heavily discriminated against.

Bangladesh, though, also denies them citizenship. The UN estimates their population in Myanmar at 800,000.

The June violence displaced 75,000 people — also mostly Muslims.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Ashok Nigam said Monday that the number of displaced was likely to rise because some people who fled affected areas along the coast by boat last week have yet to be counted.

An estimated 27,300 of the 28,000 newly displaced are Muslims, Nigam said, adding that the UN figure was based on statistics from local authorities.

The new numbers bring the total number of displaced in Rakhine state since June to at least 103,000. — AP

Burma / Image source: todayszaman.com

PanARMENIAN.Net – Myanmar’s government said Monday, Oct 29, it has boosted security in a western state hit by ethnic and sectarian unrest as the number of displaced rose to 28,000 people, mostly Muslims, The Associated Press reports.

The latest violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, which began Oct. 21, killed at least 84 people and injured 129 more, according to the government. Human rights groups believe the true toll could be far higher.

A tense calm has held across the region since Saturday, Rakhine state spokesman Myo Thant said.

He said security had been stepped up in the state, with additional police and soldiers deployed, but he declined to give details. The priority now is to ensure those who lost homes have adequate shelter and food, he said.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Ashok Nigam said the figure of 28,000 displaced was likely to rise because some people who fled affected areas along the coast by boat have yet to be counted.

An estimated 27,300 of the displaced are Muslims, Nigam said, adding that the UN figure was based on statistics from local authorities.

Human Rights Watch has said that the Rohingya have suffered the brunt of the latest violence.

Tensions have simmered in the region since clashes first broke out in June, displacing 75,000 people — also mostly Muslims.

The long-brewing conflict is rooted in a dispute over the Muslim residents’ origin. Although many Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, they are widely denigrated as intruders who came from neighboring Bangladesh to steal scarce land.

The UN estimates their population in Myanmar at 800,000. But the government does not count them as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups, and so — like neighboring Bangladesh — denies them citizenship. Human rights groups say racism also plays a role: Many Rohingya, who speak a Bengali dialect and resemble Muslim Bangladeshis, have darker skin and are heavily discriminated against.

11 Muslims killed by Buddhists in Myanmar
Rakhine Muslims / Source: presstv.ir

At least eleven Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been killed after extremist Buddhists set fire to their houses in two Muslim villages in the city of Sittwe in the western Rakhine state, a report says.

The incident occurred when a number of Buddhists backed by army and border forces set fire to houses of Muslims in the villages of Mamra and Mraut late Sunday, Radio Banga reported on Monday.

Myanmar army forces allegedly provided the Buddhists with big containers of petrol to set ablaze the houses of Muslim villagers and force them to flee their houses.

The silence of the human rights organizations towards abuses against the Rohingya Muslims has emboldened the extremist Buddhists and Myanmar’s government forces.

The Buddhist-majority government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas and has classified them as illegal migrants, even though the Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.

According to reports, thousands of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims are living in dire conditions in refugee camps after government forces and Buddhist extremists started burning down their villages on August 10.

Reports say some 650 Rohingyas have been killed in the Rakhine state in the west of the country in recent months. This is while 1,200 others are missing and 80,000 more have been displaced.

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