Death Toll in Burma Violence Tops 100

Posted October 26th, 2012 at 5:15 am (UTC-5)
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Officials in Burma say the death toll from recent ethnic violence in the western state of Rakhine has risen above 100.

Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing said Friday that 112 people have been killed in clashes between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine communities. He said more than 70 people have been wounded in several days of violence.

The spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement Thursday, saying the widening mistrust between the communities is being exploited by militant and criminal elements, to cause large-scale loss of human lives, material destruction, displaced families as well as fear, humiliation and hatred.

The U.N. statement called on Burmese authorities to bring lawlessness and vigilante attacks under control and to put a stop to threats and extremist rhetoric.

Burmese officials said said earlier that almost 2,000 homes have now been destroyed by fires, along with eight religious buildings, since these latest clashes erupted on Sunday.

Zaw Htay, in the office of the president, told VOA Burmese service that the government is taking action.

Curfews are being imposed on four towns at the center of the violence — Mrauk Oo, Myebon, Minbya and Kyauk Phyu. But some witnesses say the army has so far been unable to bring any calm, with others claiming that soldiers were firing randomly into crowds to break up the fighting.

The violence is the worst to grip the region since June, when widespread clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims left dozens dead and tens of thousands displaced. The unrest prompted fears of a humanitarian crisis among the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and many other basic rights in Burma.

The ongoing violence also is threatening to undermine the reforms enacted by Burma's new nominally civilian government.

Some rights groups say the Burmese military, which has a long history of abusing minorities, unfairly targeted Muslims during the unrest. Burma's government denies the charges.