The conflict between Buddhists and Muslims in western Myanmar has moved to the rural township of Kyauktaw.Thirteen people have been killed and seven injured in Kyauktaw over the last five days, while more than 300 homes have been torched in tat-for-tat arson attacks, according to reports.
Some 3,000 people are thought to have been affected by the violence, which allegedly began when a group of Rohingya Muslims set fire to a bus depot in the heart of the township. Kyauktaw is situated in the westerly state of Rakhine, which has witnessed widespread sectarian fighting over the past two months. However, the small township has hitherto seen little conflict.
Following the rapid escalation of violence, the authorities have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Kyauktaw. Six other towns around Rakhine have already received such restrictions. Official state figures now suggest that 90 people have died across Rakhine since the sectarian conflict began in June. A further 116 people have been injured, and over 65,000 have been displaced.
With the violence continuing to escalate, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has urged the international community to take action to help the Muslim minority – which it believes is being persecuted.
The Rohingya have never been granted citizenship in Myanmar (previously known as Burma), and a 1982 law excluded them from the list of officially recognised minorities. It is widely believed within the Islamic community that the Myanmar government has acquiesced in, and even actively supported, the recent violence against the Rohingya.
“We are deeply concerned about the appalling conditions of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar whose members are denied citizenship rights and are considered stateless people; a situation that requires a firm decision,” said a statement by the OIC.
In a separate development, a group of prominent Muslim Americans has gathered to launch Burma Task Force USA, a collective advocacy group which aims to highlight alleged atrocities and human rights violations against Myanmar’s Islamic population.
“We demand that those responsible for the mass rapes and mass murder of thousands of Rohingyas be charged with crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Court of Justice,” Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, chairperson of Burma Task Force USA, said.
The organisation also vowed to “hold [Aung San] Suu Kyi accountable” for her part in the ongoing conflict.
Suu Kyi, an internationally renowned journalist and former political prisoner, promised to support the citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims back in 2005, and has apparently held talks with Myanmar’s president, Thin Sein, since being freed from house arrest in November 2010. However she has refused to discuss the subject publicly when asked directly.