Troops, Riot Police Patrol NW Burma after Deadly Rioting

Posted June 11th, 2012 at 10:00 am (UTC-5)
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A tense calm settled over Burma's western Rakhine state Monday, as riot police intervened to curtail nearly a week of deadly violence between Muslims and Buddhists.

Ethnic Rohingya Muslims, speaking to VOA's Burmese service described scenes of devastation and fear in the border town of Maungdaw.

Right now (Monday), it is unsafe to go outside because yesterday a 12-year-old girl who went for routine shopping was shot to death by police. That's why we fear to go outside.”

To the south, in the nearby city of Sittwe, Buddhists voiced fears that security forces deployed in the city were not sufficient to control more than 3,000 Muslims who have flooded the city to escape the violence.

“The situation could (grow) worse because the numbers of security personnel are pretty small. There's no security personnel in important areas. They (Muslims) came in a large group and locals (were forced) to escape. Sittwe now has an estimated 3,500 refugees.”

Burmese President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency Sunday night, warning the nation in a televised address that the further could put the country's moves toward democracy in danger.

He invoked the emergency measure following days of violence in Rakhine state between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas, in which at least 17 people were killed and hundreds of buildings burned to the ground.

The president said that violent attacks fueled by “hatred and revenge based on religion and nationality” could spread to other parts of the country. He said if that happens, the country's stability and peace, democratization process and development, which are in transition right now, could be severely affected.

Tensions have been high in Rakhine since last Sunday, when a Buddhist mob attacked a bus and killed 10 Rohingya, mistakenly believing they were responsible for the recent gang-rape and murder of a Buddhist woman.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, does not consider the Rohingya to be Burmese citizens. According to the United Nations there are about 800,000 ethnic Rohingya in the country's western region.

Burma's government has recently begun implementing political reforms, earning approval from Western nations who had long called for change. State media have released an uncharacteristically large amount of information about last week's violent incidents.