Renewed communal violence in Rakhine State has now claimed more than 600 homes burned in western Burma as violence between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists spread to six villages, authorities said on Tuesday.
“A total of 660 houses were burned down. We don't know yet how many houses were ‘Bengali’ and how many were Rakhine,” Hla Tun told RFA’s Burmese service, using the local term for Muslim Rohingya residents.
“Because some villages have mixed populations of Bengalis and Rakhine, Rakhine houses were also burnt,” he said.
According to the state-run New Light of Myanmar, in an article published on Wednesday, a total of 1,039 houses in eight villages were burned down due to arson.
Burma now finds itself caught in a difficult situation. The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) wants to open an office in Rakhine State in a bid to provide aid to Rohingyas reeling from the violence.
At the same time, thousands of Buddhist monks and laypeople have demonstrated against the OIC in cities across the country, and the government said it will not go against the will of the people.
At a press conference on Sunday, Burmese President Thein Sein that the country has no choice but to welcome aid for the Rohingya, or else it will face an international backlash.
He said education and more jobs were the long-term solution to the two communities living in peace and harmony. He said Burma has received support from the international community, but it’s image has also been harmed by the ongoing violence and unrest.
On Monday, the government said three people had been killed in the violence—one Rakhine male and two Muslim females. Officials said the violence had spread within Rakhine State capital Sittwe’s Mrauk U and Minbya townships to include a total of six villages indentified as Thayet Oak, Paik The, San Bali and Aung Dine villages in Mrauk U townships, and Parein Gone and Yaing The village in Minbya township.
A local source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFA that clashes also occurred in the Rakhine port city of Kyauk Phyu—located about 105 kilometers (65 miles) southeast of Sittwe—where security forces were out in numbers after a local mosque was set on fire.
Rakhines form the majority in Rakhine state, which is also home to some 800,000 Rohingyas.
The UN has called the Rohingya a stateless people and one of the most persecuted groups in the world.