Kyaukpyu's Muslim Quarter Razed to the Ground

By Lawi Weng 25 October 2012

Several hundred Rohingya people have fled their burning homes in Kyaukpyu Township and taken to the sea after deadly clashes on Tuesday night.

A local source told The Irrawaddy that the entire Muslim quarter—more than 300 houses belonging to the Rohingya community—was burned to the ground by Arakanese Buddhist [Rakhine] residents who were angry at reports that three local Rakhine men had been killed. An unknown number of Rohingyas were killed in Tuesday night’s violence. Eleven persons were reportedly admitted to hospital after rival groups clashed with machetes and other weapons.

The following day, 80 boats full of fleeing Rohingyas were spotted heading to open water. The source said that 54 boats departed from Kyaukpyu at 12:30 in the afternoon and another 26 boats left around 5 pm.

“There is no one left in the Muslim quarter,” he said. “They have all fled and were heading to Sittwe.”

Sittwe is the capital of Arakan State. The Rohingya boatpeople are thought to be seeking the shelter of a neighborhood in the city where security is overseen by state authorities.

A resident from Kyaukpyu Township told The Irrawaddy on Thursday morning that tensions were high in the town and that the army had been deployed.

Burma’s state-run media reported on Thursday that only 69 houses were burned down and 20 persons were wounded on Tuesday night, while on Wednesday morning one person was killed, eight were wounded and some 700 houses were torched.

The Burmese service of BBC radio reported on Wednesday that 20 Rohingyas and six Rakhine men had been killed in riots in Myebon Township. It said that some 200 Rohingya people from Myebon had been made homeless and had fled in fear to the mountainous jungle nearby.

The resurgence in sectarian violence follows incidents earlier this week in Minbyar Township where one Rakhine man and two Rohingya women were killed. The violence then spread to Mrauk-U Township.

Burma’s state-run media reported on Wednesday that just two people were killed—one Buddhist, one Muslim—in Minbyar and Mrauk-U townships while 1,039 local houses were destroyed.

Thousands of people from both sides of the ongoing conflict have abandoned their villages in fear of reprisals and are currently seeking shelter in other locations. Many Buddhist Arakanese are reportedly sheltering in Buddhist temples, according to a local source.

The Arakan State government has imposed a curfew in Minbyar and Mrauk-U following the unrest, which began on Sunday night.

Hundreds of Rakhine students protested in Sittwe on Wednesday, claiming that they were unable to study under the security conditions in the city.

Some 70,000 people are estimated to have become homeless since the sectarian violence ignited in June.

Meanwhile, Burma’s opposition party National League for Democracy on Thursday urged the Burmese government to take further security measures to stop the ongoing violence in Arakan State and re-establish peace and security in townships such as Kyaukpyu, Minbyar, Mrauk-U and Ann.

The 88 Generation Students group also released a statement calling on all people in Burma to work together to resolve this conflict, stressing that a solution must be based on democracy and human rights.