AFP, ASIANEWS, IRRAWADDY (Burma), REUTERS, AL JAZEERA (Qatar),
A crisis is building in western Burma where one of the world’s largest groups of stateless people, the Muslim Rohingya, are being burned out of their villages by Buddhist Burmese nationalists.
Since Sunday, several people have been killed and hundreds of homes have been burned. Thousands of Rohingya refugees are flooding into already existing refugee camps near Sittwe, the capital of the western state of Rahkine, Reuters reports.
The violence has now spread to the town of Kyaukpu, where two multi-billion-dollar oil and gas pipelines to China begin. AsiaNews in Burma reports that the government newspaper New Light of Myanmar acknowledged that 1,039 houses in eight villages" were set afire.
Burma, which the ruling regime calls Myanmar, appears to be emerging from years of authoritarian rule into a tentative democracy. The country is mostly Buddhist and considers the 800,000 Rohingya, some of whom have been in Burma for generations, as illegal immigrants from Bengal, now Bangladesh and India.
The Rohingya were deprived of their Burmese citizenship in 1982. Since Bangladesh has also refused to accept them or help them, the Rohingya have lived a marginal existence, and are one of the most persecuted peoples in the world, according to the United Nations.
In June and July, the rape and murder of a Buddhist girl set off violence that killed 80 people and left 90,000 people homeless, almost all Rohingyas.
Anti-Rohingya rallies have been held in Mandalay and other Burmese cities, according to Al Jazeera. Buddhist students protested in Sittwe and “openly demanded” for Rohingya to be expelled from the university and from the city and its surrounding area, according to the AFP reports. The local Burmese magazine Irrawaddy quoted a Sittwe student leader as calling for an end to “studying with terrorist Bengalis.”
The president of Burma, Thein Sein, told AFP this summer that it was impossible for Burma “to accept the illegally entered Rohingya, who are not our ethnicity.” But in recent days Sein has acknowledged that the country will face an “international backlash” if it does not allow aid for the group, reports AsiaNews.
Burmese Nobel Prize winner and long imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticized for not speaking out on the issue, the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports.