UN calls for talks in Burma after latest clash in Arakan state
At least one person was killed and around 10 injured last Friday in the latest violence in Arakan state, reported the UNHCR.
Conflict between local Buddhist and Muslim communities in the state last year left some 200 dead and 140,000 homeless.
“UNHCR is reiterating its call for peaceful dialogue and confidence-building between the (internally displaced persons) and government. We believe this is key to avoiding further violence,” spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva.
The statement coincides with a visit by the UN’s outspoken human rights envoy for Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana, who has made Arakan state his first stop during a ten-day trip to the country.
In March, after anti-Muslim violence spread into central Burma and left dozens dead, Quintana said the reluctance of security forces to crack down on the unrest suggested a possible state link to the fighting – a claim rejected by the government.
Attacks against Muslims – who make up an estimated four percent of Burma’s population – have exposed deep fractures in the Buddhist-majority nation and cast a shadow over its emergence from army rule.
Quintana has visited several areas in Arakan state, including a Rohingya-majority area and a camp for Muslims left homeless in the violence, according to Win Myaing, spokesman for the Arakan state government.
Tensions in Arakan have remained high since two outbreaks of violence in June and October last year left around 200 people dead, mainly Rohingya who are seen by many in Burma as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Communities were torn apart in the fighting, with whole neighbourhoods reduced to ashes, and a sense of deep distrust between Muslims, Buddhists and the security forces pervades.
In June, five Muslims including three Rohingya women were killed by security forces who opened fire during disputes in two separate incidents in camps in Arakan state.
UNHCR said the latest conflict broke out at a camp for displaced Muslims on Friday when a body was found in a waterway near Sittwe.
An argument between camp residents and local police over the cause of death and handling of the corpse is thought to have led to a violent confrontation in which four Muslims sustained gunshot wounds, with one later dying.
Edwards said in a statement that humanitarian workers were unable to access the area over the weekend, but had been able to re-enter the camp as tensions eased on Monday.
A police source said two people had died of their injuries.
Win Myaing put the number of wounded at 10 and told AFP that “the situation is calm now”.
Reformist President Thein Sein earlier this summer denied accusations by Human Rights Watch of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. They are denied citizenship by Burma, leaving them effectively stateless.
Thousands have fled the camps in Arakan state, with many taking to the seas in flimsy boats and some later drowning.