By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – The United Nations today declared its intent to initiate a reallocation of its staff in western Myanmar. After yesterday’s clashes between Muslims and Buddhists left at least 8 people dead and 17 wounded, the Myanmar Government declared a state of emergency in its western Rhakin State, which borders Bangladesh. After taking office and implementing democratic reforms last year, President Thein Sein pled for this “endless anarchic vengeance” to cease.
On June 3 a group of Buddhists, in an alleged vigilante effort, attacked a bus near Taunggoke killing nine Muslims. Tuganggoke is in the western state of Rakhine, home to Myanmar’s largest concentration of Muslims. The Myanmar police reassured the public that “[a]n investigation [was] underway[,]” but were not able to provide “any further details.”
A Taunggoke resident, Kyaw Min, believes the rape and death of a Buddhist woman by several men sparked the Buddhists’ anger. However, there has been no confirmation on whether a connection existed between the men on the bus and the Buddhist woman’s death several weeks prior.
Reports from U.N. workers suggest that the continuing unrest has made it difficult for United Nations personnel to operate in the region. Ashok Nigam, a Yangon-based U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator, stated that the U.N. was temporarily relocating 44 of its 150 personnel in the Rakhine state on a voluntary basis for safety reasons.
The conflict among the villages in Rakhine has left many wounded and 500 homes burned. “We have not had any sleep for the last five days,” said Ma Ohn May, a shop owner in the nearby town of Sittwe.
In a televised address, President Sein urged, “If we put racial and religious issues at the forefront, if we put the never-ending hatred, desire for revenge and anarchic actions at the forefront, and if we continue to retaliate and terrorise and kill each other, there’s a danger that [the troubles] could multiply and move beyond Arakan (former Rakhine).”
For further information, please see:
CNN News – U.N. withdrawing staff from scene of unrest in western Myanmar – 11 June 2012
NPR News – Sectarian Strife Rips Through Myanmar Town – 11 June 2012
New York Times – Crisis in Myanmar Over Buddhist-Muslim Clash – 10 June 2012
The Guardian – Burma clashes could put transition to democracy at risk, president says – 10 June 2012