SITTWE - Fears have gripped Burma after a new bout of deadly sectarian violence that forced thousands of people, mostly Muslims, to flee their homes, amid growing mistrust between the Muslim minority and Buddhist majority in the Asian country.
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I was born here, my father was born here. This is our home.
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At least 84 people have been killed and 129 others injured in deadly violence between Buddhists and ethnic-Bengali Muslims known as Rohingyas in the western state of Rakhine since October 21.
Both Rohingyas and Buddhists in Purein village say the attack was initiated by Buddhists outsiders who torched homes one morning and killed three people, including an elderly woman who was unable to flee.
An overstretched military was unable to prevent retribution by Rohingyas.
"The Rohingyas came back to attack us and tried to burn down our village, but everyone had fled," said the Rakhine village leader, Kyaw Maw.
"No Rakhines from this village were involved. I don't know who it was that first attacked them."
The violence has displaced nearly 29,000 people, more than 97 percent of whom are Rohingya Muslims, according to the United Nations.
Many now live in camps, adding to 75,000 mostly Rohingya displaced in June after a previous explosion of sectarian violence killed at least 80 people.
Violence continued on Tuesday, despite government claims that peace has been restored to the area.
One Buddhist was shot dead and another wounded on Tuesday when security forces opened fire in Kyauknimaw on Ramree Island, according to official sources in the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe.
Hand grenades were thrown on Sunday night at two mosques in Karen State in the east of the country, domestic media reported, causing no casualties but raising fears of rising anti-Muslim sentiment elsewhere in Burma.
"The government has reinforced security forces, both police and military, to all conflict areas," said Win Myaing, the Rakhine State spokesman.
"If both parties follow the law, there won't be any conflict."
The recent bout of violence has deepened the widening mistrust between Buddhists and Muslims in the country.
"Everyone is scared of them now, Kyaw Maw, Rakhine village leader, told Reuters.
We didn't attack them, but they think we are enemies.
I want these Kalars to stay well away from us," he said, referring to Rohingyas by a term considered offensive in Burma.
Burma's Buddhist-majority government regards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in the country as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
Bangladesh has refused to grant Rohingyas refugee status since 1992.
The United Nations calls Rohingya Muslims "virtually friendless in Myanmar".
"Most Rakhines follow the law," said state spokesman Win Myaing.
"The Muslims don't. They want to bully the Rakhine in areas where they have more people."
Burma is about 90 percent Buddhist and the majority are ethnically Burman, but the remaining people are a diverse group of over 100 ethnic and religious minorities.
Treating Buddhism as the state de facto religion, the Buddhist Burman majority was singled out as the trustworthy pillar of national identity."I don't know why this is happening," said a Rohingya man who called himself Pathon.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net