YANGON: At least 100 people have been killed and thousands of homes torched in a wave of communal violence convulsing western Myanmar, a Rakhine state spokesman told AFP Friday.
“70 men and 31 women have been killed in four townships and 2,000 houses were burnt,” Win Myaing said, following the recent outbreak of violence between Buddhist ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya Muslims in the troubled state.
The death toll could be as high as 67, an official in Yangon, requesting anonymity, told AFP after several days of violence that has forced thousands of people to flee their homes.
More than 150 people have now been killed in the state since June, according to the authorities who have imposed emergency rule in the face of continued explosive tension in the region.
The latest outbreak of violence, which prompted Myanmar’s main Islamic organisations to cancel celebrations for the four-day Eidul Azha holiday that begins Friday, has drawn a swift and concerned response from the international community.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Thursday said Washington “urges parties to exercise restraint and immediately halt all attacks”, while the United Nations expressed grave concern over the violence.
Myanmar’s 800,000 Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh by the government and many Burmese, who call them “Bengalis”.
The bloodshed in Rakhine has cast a shadow over widely-praised reforms by President Thein Sein, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.