SITTWE - Adding to the plight of thousands of Muslims, a humanitarian crisis was unfolding in western Myanmar on Thursday, June 14, following days of deadly sectarian violence with Buddhists.
"Tensions between the two groups have eased, Aung Myat Kyaw, a senator for Rakhine state, told Reuters.
There are around 20,000 refugees in Sittwe. Most of them are from the villages where people fled in fear of the violence.
"They are in need of food and, because of the heavy rain, there are concerns about the refugees' health and whether they have enough shelter," he added.
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At least 21 people were killed and hundreds of homes burnt in days of sectarian clashes between Buddhist majority and Muslim minority in Rakhine state in western Myanmar.
But the violence subsided on Wednesday as troops patrolled the area to restore security and order.
Places that had been flashpoints earlier in the week, including state capital Sittwe, were quiet, said Caw Tun, a member of a development group, the Wan Latt Foundation.
The violence forced ferry cargo companies that deliver food to the area to stop.
Worse still, road transport in and out the cities have also stopped.
The United Nations and a medical aid group said this week they were pulling staff out of the area because of the violence.
UN special envoy for Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, travelled to the area on Wednesday.
The violence started after an attack by Buddhist vigilantes on a bus carrying Muslims in western Myanmar.
The attack followed the rape and murder of a woman, whom the Buddhists blame Muslims for.
Muslims in Danger
Hundreds of Muslims were taken by the army to villages outside Sittwe to ensure their safety.
"They are worried for their lives, Shwe Maung, a Muslim member of parliament for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, told Reuters.
The army is there so their life is secure.
"There are still so many Rohingyas in downtown Sittwe and they are afraid of being attacked."
Muslims make up nearly five percent of Myanmar's more than 53 million population.
The largest group of Myanmar's Muslims is the ethnic-Bengali minority, generally known as the Rohingyas, who mainly live in the western state of Rakhine.
Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Rohingyas are not allowed to own land.
Rohingya Muslims have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
They suffer frequent food shortages and they are technically restricted from travel outside of Rakhine.
Every year, thousands of Muslim Rohingyas flee Myanmar in wooden boats, embarking on a hazardous journey to Thailand or Malaysia in search of a better life.
Thousands of Muslim Rohingyas flee Myanmar every year in wooden boats, embarking on a hazardous journey to Thailand or Malaysia in search of a better life.
Rohingyas say they are deprived of free movement, education and employment in their homeland.They are not recognized as an ethnic minority by Myanmar and say they suffer human rights abuses at the hands of government officials.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net