YANGON, Myanmar – Fifty people have been killed and scores wounded in communal clashes in western Myanmar, state media said Saturday, June 16, raising the toll from riots that have displaced more than 30,000 people.
According to state mouthpiece the New Light of Myanmar, 50 people have died, with 54 injured between May 28 and June 14 in Rakhine state, which has been rocked by violence between local Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya.
The report did not say whether the updated toll includes 10 Muslims beaten to death on June 3 by a Rakhine Buddhist mob in apparent revenge for the rape and murder of a woman, which sparked the violence.
A state of emergency was in force in Rakhine on Saturday with New Light saying security forces were “restoring peace, stability and security” after the unrest, which poses a serious challenge to Myanmar’s reform-minded government.
“Yesterday (June 14), there were only two riots in the state, and authorities concerned could handle these two cases peacefully in accord with respective law,” the report said.
Nearly 31,900 people from both sides are being housed in 37 camps across Rakhine, officials in the state capital Sittwe said on Thursday, while thousands of homes on both sides have been torched.
Decades of discrimination have left the Muslim Rohingya stateless and viewed by the United Nations as among the most persecuted minorities on the planet.
About 800,000 Rohingya live in Myanmar, according to the UN, mostly in Rakhine.
The Myanmar government considers the Rohingya to be foreigners, while many citizens see them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and view them with hostility.
The Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya in the region have accused each other of violent attacks, and in recent days local residents have been seen on the streets wielding knives, swords and sticks.
Speaking in Geneva on Thursday where she began a historic trip to Europe — her first since 1988 — opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi stressed “the need for rule of law” when asked about the sectarian unrest. – Agence France-Presse