President Thein Sein’s government has declared a state of emergency in the Rakhine state following a bout of violence which erupted between the region’s Buddhists and Muslims. This is not the first time clashes have occurred between the two groups. At least nine Muslims were killed by Buddhist residents slightly over a week ago, over the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman.
This time, hundreds of Buddhist villagers’ homes were believed to have been set ablaze by Muslims. The incident left seven dead and 17 wounded. In a speech, President Thein Sein ordered tightened security measures in order to prevent such violent attacks from spreading to other parts of the country. He said that such conflicts would threaten to undermine stability, development and Myanmar government’s move towards democratization through reform.
Security forces were dispatched to control rioters who were torching houses, and had to open fire in order to restrain the crowd, which has been said to number a thousand. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been applied, with public gatherings of five or more people banned.
British Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne expressed his concern regarding the violence, calling on all parties to act with restraint. Mr Browne has also requested that authorities and community leaders open discussions to “end the violence and to protect all members of the local population”. The Foreign Office issued a warning to British nationals yesterday to warn against travelling to the Rakhine state.
Tensions between Buddhist residents and Muslims in Rakhine have been increasing in the past few weeks, but have always been high. The state consists largely of Buddhist residents, with most Muslims coming from neighboring Bangladesh. The residents’ resentment of Muslim settlers has been a major factor contributing to conflicts in the area.
Report: Britain calls for Myanmar talks as violence erupts [AFP, 11 June 2012]
Report: Riot-hit Myanmar state tense under emergency rule [AFP, 10 June 2012]
Report: Deadly riots raise Muslim-Buddhist tensions in Myanmar [New York Times, 9 June 2012]
Report: Burma violence: tension high in Rakhine state [BBC, 11 June 2012]