THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
October 27, 2012
The Guardian (UK)

Burma's Leader Admits Deadly Attacks on Muslims

Satellite images show huge swath of coastal town destroyed in a wave of violence which has left dozens dead

by Peter Beaumont

Burma's president has admitted an unprecedented wave of ethnic violence has targeted his country's Rohingya Muslim population, destroying whole villages and large parts of towns.

Thein Sein's acknowledgement follows the release of satellite images showing the severe scale of the destruction in one coastal town, where most - if not all - of the Muslim population appears to have been displaced and their homes destroyed.

The pictures, acquired by Human Rights Watchshow destruction to the coastal town of Kyaukpyu in the country's west. They reveal an area of destruction 35 acres in size in which some 811 buildings and boats have been destroyed. . . .

The attacks in Arakan province in the country's west - also known as Rakhine - appears to have been part of a wave of communal violence pitting Arakan Buddhists against Muslims that has hit five separate towns and displaced thousands of people. . . .

The Rohingya are officially stateless. Buddhist-majority Burma's government regards the estimated 800,000 of them in the country as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and not as one of the country's 135 official ethnic groups, and denies them citizenship. . . .

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[Today, there are about 70,000 displaced from the conflict, mostly Muslims. The two communities are almost completely segregated in towns such as Sittwe, where the Arakan Buddhists are able to roam freely while the Rohingya are mostly confined to a series of camps outside the centre.--"Burma clashes spread to new districts," guardian.co.uk, October 15, 2012]

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[In recent months, Suu Kyi has been subjected to unusually sharp criticism for her perceived as limp response to conflict in Rakhine State, where Buddhist Rakhine's have clashed violently with Muslim Rohingyas. In an interview with the New York Times in September 2012, Suu Kyi said, "I know that people want me to [speak on the issue], they want strong and colorful condemnation, which I won't do, because I don't think it helps."--Billy Tea, "Suu Kyi’s fading glory," atimes.com, February 9, 2013]

[The United Nations, which calls the Rohingya one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, says that of the 13,000 mostly Rohingya Muslims who fled Burma and Bangladesh last year, at least 485 were known to have drowned.--Jason Motlagh, "Muslim refugees flee Burma by boat after sectarian violence," washingtonpost.com, February 11, 2013]

"The bin Laden of Buddhism," theendlessfurther.com, March 28, 2013

[Violence and discrimination against Muslims is currently framed by some Buddhist groups as a necessary response to the imminent threat of Islam's expansion into the Buddhist community; in a situation like this, some Buddhists have argued that any actions can be justified in order to protect the religion.--Matthew J Walton, "Buddhism turns violent in Myanmar," atimes.com, April 2, 2013]

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[The killings of Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine state in the west of the country that started the violence in 2012 has spread this year to the wider Muslim population.--Tom Fawthrop, "State complicity in Myanmar pogroms," atimes.com, July 1, 2013]

[ . . . both laws are directed against the country's minority Muslim community. The first will severely limit the conversion of Buddhist women to Islam and the second will restrict Muslim families to no more than two children.--David I Steinberg, "Laws enforce discrimination in Myanmar," atimes.com, March 18, 2014]

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