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Myanmar Religious Violence Escalates

Published: 09/06/2012 04:18:26 PM GMT
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NAYPYIDAW - As renewed riots hit western Myanmar, the Burmese army was deployed on Saturday, June 9, to Rakhine State following fresh sectarian violence between Muslims and Buddhists. The situation is now very critical and (more)

NAYPYIDAW - As renewed riots hit western Myanmar, the Burmese army was deployed on Saturday, June 9, to Rakhine State following fresh sectarian violence between Muslims and Buddhists.

"The situation is now very critical and unstable," Abu Tahay, chairman of the National Democratic Party for Development, a Rohingya political party, told Reuters by phone from Yangon.

"Violence hasn't started yet, but it might soon.

Distrust Feeds Myanmar Muslim HatredBuddhist Vigilantes Kill Myanmar Muslims

Tahay said Buddhists hurled stones at the mosque in Muangdaw and five Rohingyas were shot dead after an argument with security forces.

Unrest flared Friday when security forces opened fire on Rohingyas and several of them were killed, a Rohingya politician and an activist, citing local sources, told Reuters.

Other sources said that at least four Buddhists were killed in riots in Rakhine, which is home to large numbers of Rohingya, a Muslim group described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.

The accounts provided by sources contacted by Reuters could not be immediately verified.

Imposing martial law in an area of Burma's western Rakhine State, the Burmese authorities accused Muslims of allegedly torching hundreds of houses.

“Nineteen shops, 386 houses and one hotel were burned,” President Thein Sein's official website said.

“Four men and a woman were killed with knives.”

The exact number of casualties was hard to determine because many people had fled to the hills, villagers said.

“Around 100 people were injured,” said Zaw Than, a resident of Maung Thaw.

“Soldiers are still searching for victims who are hiding in the hills.”

The riots came five days after 10 Muslims were killed Sunday after Buddhist vigilantes attacked their bus western state of Rakhine.

The attack followed the rape and murder of a woman in the state, which borders Bangladesh, for which three Muslim men have been detained.


Known as the world's most persecuted minority, the mob killing of Rohingya Muslim minority was deeply criticized by the US government, calling for the Burmese government to reconcile with minorities.

"We are deeply concerned about the reports that a mob killed 10 individual Muslim pilgrims, pulling them from a bus and beating them to death," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

"We're obviously saddened by this tragic loss of life. It speaks to the importance of the government and the minorities redoubling efforts on a peace process that includes a ceasefire and real negotiations."

Muslims make up nearly five percent of Myanmar's more than 53 million population.

The largest group of Myanmar Muslims is the ethnic-Bengali minority, generally known as the Rohingyas, who mainly live in the western state of Rakhine.

Less numbered are the Indian-descended Muslims who live in Yangon and ethnic-Chinese Muslims, known as the Panthay.

Pockets of sectarian unrest have occasionally broken out in the past across the country, with Rakhine state, which has the largest concentration of Muslims, a flashpoint for tensions.

In February 2001, the then-ruling junta declared a curfew in the state capital Sittwe after clashes between Muslims and Buddhists.

The authorities this week warned against "anarchic acts" after the mob killings and an attack on a police station by an angry crowd in Sittwe.

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.

Every year, thousands of minority Muslim Rohingyas flee Myanmar in wooden boats, embarking on a hazardous journey to Thailand or Malaysia in search of a better life.

While some find work as illegal laborers, others are arrested, detained and "repatriated" to a military-ruled country that washed its hands of them decades ago.

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