Troops patrol strife-hit Myanmar state

Security forces tried to restore order on Monday to a Myanmar state placed under emergency rule after a wave of deadly religious violence, as the United Nations evacuated foreign workers.

The surge in sectarian unrest presents a major test for President Thein Sein, a former general credited with pushing through a series of dramatic political reforms since the end of decades of military rule last year.

In Sittwe, the capital of western Rakhine state, AFP reporters saw the charred remains of houses as well as troops outside monasteries and mosques.

Groups of men, who appeared to be ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, roamed the city wielding sticks or knives. Most of the shops were closed and the authorities have announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

On the outskirts of Sittwe, where large fires blazed, gunfire was heard after police entered one village.

Large crowds of residents, some armed with swords and knives, were seen patrolling their community.

Rakhine, which is predominantly Buddhist, is home to a large number of Muslims including the Rohingya, a stateless people described by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.

A cycle of apparent revenge attacks has gripped the state following the recent rape and murder of a Rakhine woman, allegedly by three Muslims. In response an angry Buddhist mob beat 10 Muslims to death earlier this month.

At least seven people have died in clashes since Friday and 500 homes have been destroyed, according to officials, but there were fears of a higher toll.

Chris Lewa, the Bangkok-based director of The Arakan Project, an advocacy group which works with Rohingya, said she had received reports that dozens of people had been killed. AFP was unable to verify the information.

"The authorities, not just Burmese media, seem to ignore all the Muslim deaths," Lewa said.

The Myanmar government considers the Rohingya to be foreigners, while many citizens see them as illegal immigrants and view them with hostility, describing them as "Bengalis".

Neighbouring Bangladesh has stepped up security along the frontier and in refugee camps where tens of thousands of Rohingya live. Border guards on Monday turned away eight boats carrying more than 300 Rohingya.

"They were carrying mainly Rohingya women and children, many of whom were crying and looked extremely anxious," Shafiqur Rahman, a major in the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) force, told AFP.

"All eight boats have been pushed back to Myanmar territory."

The United Nations began pulling out more than 40 workers -- including foreigners -- and their families from a base in Maungdaw, in Rakhine state, said Ashok Nigam, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Yangon.

The temporary move was "because of the insecurity and disturbance", he said.

Local Buddhists and the Rohingya have traded increasingly angry accusations over the eruption in violence.

"We tried hard to resist them but our houses and monastery were burned down by Bengalis," said Soe Tun, a 53-year-old Buddhist villager sheltering at a monastery just outside Sittwe.

"I had never seen this kind of violence in 30 years."

Abu Tahay, of the National Democratic Party for Development, which represents the Rohingya, said a number of Rohingya had been shot dead by security forces or killed by Buddhists.

"I'm still worried because there are racist Rakhine people. They don't believe in peaceful cohabitation," he said by telephone from Yangon.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged an immediate end to the violence.

"The United States continues to be deeply concerned about reports of ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence in western Burma's Rakhine State and urges all parties to exercise restraint and immediately halt all attacks," Clinton said in a statement.

"We urge the people of Burma to work together toward a peaceful, prosperous and democratic country that respects the rights of all its diverse peoples."

Thein Sein warned in an address to the nation Sunday that attacks fuelled by "hatred and revenge based on religion and nationality" in Rakhine could spread to other parts of the country, and that the unrest threatened to undermine reforms.

Myanmar's Muslims -- of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent -- account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population in a country where for many people Buddhism forms an intrinsic part of national identity.

According to the UN, there are nearly 800,000 Rohingya living in Myanmar, mostly in Rakhine. Another one million or more are thought to live in other countries.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • EU threatens Thailand with seafood ban over illegal fishing
    EU threatens Thailand with seafood ban over illegal fishing

    BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has given Thailand six months to drastically crack down on illegal and unregulated fishing or face an EU seafood import ban, but has lifted the threat of similar action against South Korea and the Philippines. …

  • Philippines accuses China of turning water cannon on its fishing boats

    Filipino activists denounced China's coast guard on Tuesday for turning water cannon on Philippine fishing boats in disputed waters, near where hundreds of Filipino and American Marines landed on a beach in a mock assault. The presidential palace in Manila said China's coast guard used water cannon on Monday to drive away a group of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, damaging some of their wooden boats. …

  • Image of Asia: Training to storm a beach in the Philippines
    Image of Asia: Training to storm a beach in the Philippines

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a U.S. Navy amphibious assault vehicle with Philippine and U.S. troops on board storms the beach during a joint exercise at the Naval Education and Training Command center in Zambales province, northwest of Manila. The Zambales shore faces the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where Chinese vessels were reported to have driven away Filipino fishermen with a water cannon and seized some of their catch in early April. Philippine military officials say the maneuvers with …

  • Pinoy team wins global disaster preparedness competition

    The Philippines was one of the big winners at the 2015 Global Innovation Competition last week for a cloud-based information system for disaster. The project, called "Balangay," is the brainchild of cousins Frei Sangil and Paolo Sangil. …

  • How Asia uses Bitcoin in one color-coded map
    How Asia uses Bitcoin in one color-coded map

    Bitcoin is a global phenomenon, but not everyone around the world uses it in the same way. Here in Asia, the way a person from the Philippines uses bitcoin is probably very different from how it’s used in Thailand, and both are very different from the typical user in Taiwan. Despite bitcoin being hailed as …

  • Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash
    Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash

    Manny Pacquiao's face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero's "fight of the century" nears. Pacmania is sweeping the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather to decide who is the best boxer of their generation. Of course, it's the fight of the century," Manila film producer Lucky Blanco told AFP. …

  • Manila 'cute little submissive' of US: China media
    Manila 'cute little submissive' of US: China media

    The Philippines is nothing more than the "cute little submissive" of the United States, a Chinese tabloid with close ties to the ruling Communist Party said on Tuesday, criticising Manila for military exercises with Washington. The English-language editorial came a day after the Philippines launched giant 10-day war games with the US and Australia, partly aimed as a warning shot to Beijing amid competing claims in the South China Sea, home to vital shipping routes. "Of all the countries …

  • Philippines seeks more military aid from US to counter China
    Philippines seeks more military aid from US to counter China

    The Philippines said Tuesday it would soon ask the United States for more military equipment and training to build its defences, as it faces Chinese "aggressiveness" in disputed waters. As hundreds of Filipino and American Marines simulated an amphibious assault to reclaim territory from invaders during annual war games, military chief General Gregorio Catapang told AFP he was drafting a "wish list" for US aid. Catapang said the Philippines would ask for "equipment and training", when Foreign …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options