Muslim-Buddhist clashes spread in western Myanmar



Yangon: Skirmishes between Muslims and Buddhists in western Myanmar have spread to two new districts where authorities are struggling to douse flames from burning homes, the government said on Wednesday.

Rakhine state spokesman Myo Thant said clashes between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists reported in other parts of the coastal region Sunday engulfed the townships of Kyaukphyu and Myebon late yesterday.

The unrest is some of the worst reported in the region since violence swept the area in June after the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim men in late May. Although clashes have been rare since then, tensions have simmered in part because the government has failed to find any long-term solution to the crisis other than segregating the two communities in some areas.

The skirmishes this week began Sunday in Minbyar and Mrauk-U districts, both located north of the regional capital, Sittwe. The government says up to three people were killed and more than 1,000 homes burned down.

Myo Thant said fighting began yesterday in Kyaukphyu and Myebon and continued today. "Houses are burning and clashes between the two communities are ongoing," Myo Thant said. "The most important thing is to put out the fires. We are trying to control the situation."

Kyaukphyu and Myebon are located about 95 kilometers and 50 kilometers south and east of Sittwe, respectively.

There was no immediate word on whether there were any casualties in the two townships, and Myo Thant had no details on the extent of arson attacks there. The crisis in Myanmar's west goes back decades and is rooted in a dispute over where the region's Muslim inhabitants are from. Although many Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, they are widely denigrated as foreigners intruders who came from neighboring Bangladesh to steal scarce land.

PTI