Ethnic Violence in Myanmar Leaves Thousands of Refugees
[media-credit name=”Instagram: @sabrinaveezalani” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]Sittwe, Myanmar – Monsoon rains have done little to dampen heated ethnic tensions in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state, where dozens have died in tit-for-tat attacks over the past two months.
Scars of the conflict are visible in the charred blocks of land, where entire villages were burned to the ground by angry mobs armed with knives and metal poles.
The aftermath is particularly evident in the Narze quarter of the capital Sittwe, which has become a ghost town since the Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya were evacuated to keep the peace.
The refugee camps and villages lacking food now house 70,000 people, according to police Lieutenant Colonel Myo Min Aung.
Violence flared after the alleged rape of a Buddhist woman and the retribution killing of ten Muslims. Days of fighting between the Rakhine and Rohingya ensued, bringing the official death toll to 78. But that is widely believed to be grossly underestimated.
The Rohingya have suffered discrimination for generations in Myanmar. About 800,000 of the Muslim group are denied citizenship under a law passed 30 years ago.
On the streets of Sittwe, an uneasy calm is enforced by trucks carrying police and soldiers.
Bikes, scooters and tuk-tuks push slowly through heavy rain that stops as suddenly as it starts. Maroon-robed monks with bare feet make their rounds, clutching collection bowls for food.
Myo Min Aung’s police battalion, deployed to Sittwe from Yangon after local police were accused of being “anti-Muslim”, now patrol the area separating Rakhine and Rohingya settlements.
After leading the peace-keeping operation for two months, Myo Min Aung said he wants to return home to Yangon, but he is still “waiting for a plan” from the government.
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