Official Arakan Death Toll Rises to 112

By Lawi Weng 26 October 2012

At least 112 people have been killed in five days of ethnic and sectarian violence in Burma’s western Arakan State, according to a spokesperson from the State Government.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday afternoon, spokesman Win Myaing said that 51 men and 61 women were confirmed dead in six townships after mobs of Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims clashed and sought reprisals on each other’s communities.

He said that an additional 68 people have been wounded since Sunday, including 10 children. He would not elaborate, however, on how many victims were Rohingya and how many were Rakhine.

The situation is said by local residents to have returned to calm on Friday morning after several nights of mob violence and house-burning riots in the townships of Kyaukpyu, Kyauktaw, Minbyar, Mrauk-U, Pauktaw and Rathedaung.

Burmese security forces are currently patrolling the streets in those townships and a curfew has been imposed, as have restrictions on gatherings in Kyaukpyu, Minbyar and Mrauk-U townships. In Kyaukpyu, security personnel drove through the streets announcing on megaphones that gatherings of more than five persons were prohibited.

The official number of victims has increased significantly since Thursday when Arakan State authorities claimed that 56 people had been killed and about 2,000 houses burnt down.

A local resident in Kyaukpyu told The Irrawaddy that more Rohingya families in the town were forced to flee their homes on Thursday. Then, at about 6 am on Friday, some individual persons looted many of the homes and set fire to them.

“Some people are roaming around, looting the houses [of those who have fled] and then setting them on fire,” he said, adding that the presence of security forces later in the day appeared to have restored an element of calm to the town.

Township authorities in Kyaukpyu have ordered all Muslims to move to a temporary camp erected outside the town, telling them that the measure is for their own protection.

About 40 boats arrived in Sittwe on Thursday full of fleeing Rohingya families despite a state government announcement that the authorities would not allow more evacuees to enter the city.

At least 70,000 people—mostly Rohingya Muslims but also Arakanese Buddhists—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 local sources.

Meanwhile, a member of the “Committee of the Rule of Law and Tranquility,” which is chaired by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, proposed at the Lower House in Naypyidaw on Friday morning that the situation in Arakan be discussed in Parliament. Following the debate, Parliament approved a proposal to deploy more security forces to the region.