Death Toll in Burma’s Sectarian Violence Reaches 28

Posted June 14th, 2012 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Burmese officials say the latest outbreak of sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims in western Rakhine state has claimed 28 lives, as a top U.N. envoy ended his visit to the conflict stricken region and stressed the importance of handling the situation delicately.

The officials say violence between ethnic Rahkines and ethnic Rohingyas has caused death and property damage on both sides. They say tens of thousands of people have been displaced, more than 2,500 homes burned, and food and water supplies are growing scarce.

Speaking to VOA by phone from Rangoon Thursday, Vijay Nambiar, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's adviser on Burma, said the city of Maungdaw, where the conflict broke out, is relatively calm, but the situation in the state's capital Sittwe remains tenuous.

Nambiar praised Burmese Border Affairs Minister Thein Htay, who traveled with him, and President Thein Sein, who responded by sending in the military to bring the situation under control and declaring a state of emergency in the region. He described the president's action as “prompt, firm, and sensitive.”

Nambiar's visit came as Bangladesh denied a U.N. request that it open its borders to Rohingyas, who are fleeing the fighting. Bangladesh's Foreign Ministry said it is not in the country's best interest to let them in.

Violence erupted June 3 when a mob of Buddhists in Rakhine ambushed a bus and killed 10 Rohingya Muslim passengers, in apparent retaliation for the earlier rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslims.

Nambiar said it will take time to address the longstanding ethnic and sectarian tensions.