Myanmar acknowledges destruction, ethnic unrest in Rakhine

Burmese president Thein Sein has acknowledged major destruction and ethnic unrest in the west of the country.

London: Burmese president Thein Sein has acknowledged major destruction and ethnic unrest in the west of the country.

"There have been incidents of whole villages and parts of the towns being burnt down in Rakhine state. If necessary, we will send more police and military troops in order to get back stability," the BBC quoted Sein`s spokesman Zaw Htay, as saying.

There is long-standing tension between ethnic Rakhine people, who make up the majority of the state``s population, and Muslims, many of whom are Rohingya and are stateless. The Burmese authorities regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and there is widespread public hostility to them.

Hyat was speaking after the US-based Human Rights Watch released satellite pictures showing hundreds of buildings destroyed in the coastal town of Kyaukpyu alone, and stated that the victims were mostly Rohingya Muslims, targeted by non-Muslims.

The satellite pictures taken on October 9 showed hundreds of closely packed houses, as well as scores of houseboats along the northern shoreline. The images taken on October 25 showed only few boats remaining and the 35-acre district is almost entirely empty of houses.

The government says the death toll from the attacks this week has reached 82, with a further 129 people injured, and that nearly 3,000 houses have been destroyed. It was the first serious outburst of violence since June, when a state of emergency was declared in Rakhine.

At that time deadly clashes claimed dozens of lives and thousands of people were forced to flee their homes - many are yet to return. HRW said it feared the death toll from the latest unrest could be much higher, based on witness reports and "the government`s well-documented history of underestimating figures that might lead to criticism of the state".

Non-Muslims are reporting that this time they too were fired on by government forces during the unrest, and suffered many casualties.

On Friday, six towns were hit by clashes and a night-time curfew is in place in several locations including Min Bya and Mrauk Oo where the latest spate of violence began. It is unclear what prompted the latest clashes. The Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims, believed to be mainly Rohingya, blame each other for the violence.