Rioters Renew Violence in Burma’s Arakan State

By Jared Ferrie & Aung Hla Tun 1 July 2013

RANGOON — Rioters torched two houses in a coastal town in Burma’s Arakan State in the latest violence between Buddhists and minority Muslims, a government spokesman said, but a resident said security forces had restored order on Monday.

At least 237 people have been killed in Burma in religious violence over the past year and about 150,000 people have been displaced. Most of the victims were Muslim and the most deadly incidents happened in Arakan State, where about 800,000 Rohingya Muslims live, according to the United Nations.

In the latest flare-up, about 50 people gathered outside a police station in Thandwe on the west coast on Sunday after hearing a woman had been raped by “a man of another religion,” government spokesman Ye Htut said on his Facebook page.

While the Thandwe riot was relatively minor, similar incidents in the past have led to larger and more deadly confrontations.

The rioters set two homes on fire at about 7 pm after police asked the crowd to disperse.

“The Burma police force is working to reveal the offenders and take action according to the law,” Ye Htut said.

Three Muslims were injured in the fire, Ye Oo, a police deputy corporal in Thandwe, told Reuters by telephone.

Ye Htut said police had blocked roads into and out of the town, which has the closest airport to Ngapali beach, one of Burma’s most popular beaches for tourists.

The United Nations said 140,000 people remain displaced in the state after clashes in June and October last year.

Two displaced people were killed and six wounded on June 27 when security forces used gunfire to disperse a crowd that had gathered at a military base in Kyein Ni Pyin, a camp for displaced persons in the Pauktaw area of Rakhine State.

Muslims make up about 5 percent of the 60 million people in Buddhist-majority Burma.