ASEAN Chief: Burma Unrest Could Radicalize Rohingya Muslims

Posted October 30th, 2012 at 4:55 am (UTC-5)
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The head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is warning that ongoing sectarian violence in western Burma could radicalize minority Rohingya Muslims and threaten the stability of the whole region.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan is calling for the international community to intervene in Burma's western Rakhine state, where dozens have been killed and tens of thousands displaced in the latest outbreak of fighting between Buddhists and Muslims. He says his 10-nation bloc is in a position to offer aid to Burma.

Surin says unless the situation is resolved quickly, Burma's 1.5 million Rohingyas could become radicalized, something he says could jeopardize the economic security of South and East Asia.

The United Nations says 22,000 people have been displaced since last week in western Rakhine state. The Burmese government says the fighting has left more than 2,800 houses burned down and 67 people dead.

Human Rights Watch fears the death toll is far higher, based on the accounts of witnesses fleeing the fighting, which it says has disproportionately targeted Muslims.

The U.N. said last week that the violence threatens to undermine the reforms enacted by Burma's new nominally civilian government. It called on Burmese authorities to bring lawlessness and vigilante attacks under control and to put a stop to threats and extremist rhetoric.