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    » 06/11/2012, 00.00

    MYANMAR

    State of emergency to stop Buddhist-Muslim clashes



    More than a week ago a Buddhist woman was raped. A number of Muslims were killed because they were suspected of being the perpetrators of the crime. Since then at least 500 homes have been torched and destroyed. Fear is growing that the violence might affect the country's struggling democracy. Rakhine state is the point of origin for oil and gas pipelines stretching to Yunnan.

    Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in western Rakhine state to stop violence between Buddhists and Muslims. For the president, if tensions continue, the country's steps towards democracy could be jeopardised.

    Violence broke out about a week ago when a Buddhist woman was raped and killed. An angry crowd blamed Muslims and attacked a bus carrying Muslim passengers, killing ten.

    This weekend, at least 500 houses and other buildings have been razed as the unrest spread with mob and revenge attacks. One report said 5,000 people have been made homeless.

    The Rakhine state capital Sittwe is under tight security. But in Yangon, Buddhists protested demanding justice for the violence (pictured). In the previous days, Muslims had protested.

    Sittwe is an important trading hub and the point of origin for oil and gas pipelines being built by China National Petroleum Corp that stretch to Yunnan province.

    At the same time, the area is home to minority Muslims, including Roihingya, who are viewed as "illegal" immigrants from Bangladesh. In a tragic twist of fate, in Bangladesh, the Roihingya are seen as illegal immigrants from Myanmar.

    With its 135 or more ethnic groups, Myanmar has always had difficulties in having them live together. In the past, the country's military junta used an iron fist against the more rebellious of them.

    Yesterday's state of emergency is the first exceptional measure taken by Thein Sein, who became president more than a year ago and has been trying to move the country from a military dictatorship to a limited democracy.

    Muslims are 4 per cent in a population of 60 million. Rohingya number 750,000 according to UN figures, mostly in Rakhine state.

    Another million or so are divided between Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia.

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    See also

    26/10/2012 MYANMAR
    Rakhine: More than 100 dead in clashes between ethnic Burmese and Rohingya
    Fighting between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims restarted on Sunday. So far, in addition to the dead, 72 people have been injured and some 2,000 homes set on fire. Myanmar president rails against manipulators who are behind the violence, pledges action by the military and the authorities to restore stability. Bangladesh tightens controls to stop refugees from reaching its coasts.

    25/11/2013 MYANMAR - INDIA - UNITED NATIO
    For Burmese activist, the Rohingya issue hides anti-Myanmar power games
    For Tint Swe, the country is united against the UN resolution, which calls on Myanmar authorities to grant citizenship to the Muslim minority. Today Islamic movements and nations defend the Rohingya, but were not as generous in the past. The people of Burma "feel threatened". Criticism jeopardises the process of democratisation and development.

    24/10/2012 MYANMAR
    Rakhine: a thousand homes torched as tensions between Burmese and Rohingya remain high
    Officially, 600 homes were burnt; local sources report "1,039 houses in eight villages". Three people died: two Muslim women and a Burmese man. Fears persist that violence between the two groups could get worse. Thein Sein tries to appease the situation by promising jobs and education to restore "peace and harmony".

    22/03/2013 MYANMAR
    In Meikhtila, death toll from Buddhist-Muslim clashes rises to 20
    Buddhists set fire overnight to other mosques. To stem the violence, the authorities have imposed a curfew in the city. Clashes were sparked by an argument between a Muslim shopkeeper and Buddhist Burmese.

    22/01/2014 MYANMAR
    For Archbishop of Yangon, marriage, conversion and the vote are inviolable human rights
    Archbishop Bo stresses the importance of civil rights, the basis of a democratic society. Marriage must be free from coercion and open to people of different faiths. The right to convert and the right of the religious leaders, be they Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Hindu, to vote are equally crucial. An interfaith meeting was recently held in Yangon on the topic of 'social harmony'.



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