SITTWE, Myanmar — A top UN envoy arrived in strife-torn western Myanmar Wednesday as security forces grappled with sectarian violence that has left dozens dead and hundreds of homes burned down.
A state of emergency has been declared in Rakhine state, which has been rocked by a wave of rioting and arson, posing a major test for the reformist government which took power last year.
Vijay Nambiar, UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s special adviser on Myanmar, flew into the capital of Rakhine to visit Maungdaw, a town near the border with Bangladesh where the violence flared on Friday.
Rakhine, a predominantly Buddhist state bordering Bangladesh, is home to a large number of Muslims including the Rohingya, described by the United Nations as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.
The Myanmar government considers the Rohingya to be foreigners, while many citizens see them as illegal immigrants and view them with hostility, describing them as “Bengalis”. Hundreds of Rohingya, many of them women and children, have attempted to flee to Bangladesh in rickety boats in recent days, but have been turned away.
Border guards Wednesday said they had refused entry to another three vessels, although a single six-week-old baby girl found floating alone in a boat was rescued. — AFP