YANGON — More than 80 people have been killed in a wave of communal violence in western Myanmar this month, a government official said Thursday, as local people said they still feared for their lives.
About 71 people have died in more than a week of clashes, the official said, in addition to 10 Muslims killed on June 3 by a Buddhist mob seeking revenge for the rape and murder of a local woman – the apparent spark for the unrest.
Both sides have accused each other of violent attacks.
Two men were on Monday sentenced to death for the rape-murder, although no death row prisoner in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is known to have been executed since 1988.
Rakhine state has been rocked by rioting, arson and a cycle of revenge attacks involving Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya, prompting growing international concern.
Myanmar officials and many Burmese, including the mostly Buddhist ethnic Rakhine, consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, and refer to them as “Bengalis”.
The dead bodies of eight more ethnic Rakhine were found in the village of Yathedaung, about 65 km from the state capital Sittwe, the official said. “These people were killed during clashes with Bengalis,” he said.
Rohingya leaders say the real number of dead in their own communities could be much higher than the figures given by authorities.
About 800,000 Rohingya live in Myanmar, according to the UN, which describes them as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. They face discrimination including restrictions on their movements, and lack land rights, education and public services, the UN says. — AFP