Asia
3:57 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

Muslim And Buddhist Fighting In Myanmar Kills 67

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has won praise for its unexpected transformation from military dictatorship to civilian rule. But that progress has been overshadowed this week. Fighting among Muslims and Buddhists in the west of the country has killed at least 67 people.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: State television reported that since Sunday, fighting between ethnic Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists has destroyed nearly 3,000 homes and sent more than 60,000 people fleeing to refugee camps in western Rakhine state. The government has not given a breakdown of the victims' ethnicity.

Tun Khine is president of the London-based Burmese Rohingya Organization U.K. He says this fighting should not be happening under the state of emergency that the government declared after more than 80 people died in previous violence in June. Tun Khine argues that the fighting is not about religion.

TUN KHINE: There is no way this violence would continue if the government genuinely wanted to stop it. These are not (unintelligible).

KUHN: He calls it state-organized and state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing, the vast majority of whose victims are Rohingya. Many Buddhists agree it's not about religion. They see the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. Neither Bangladesh nor Myanmar recognize the Rohingya as their citizens, leaving them stateless.

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland says the U.S. calls on the Burmese government and society...

VICTORIA NULAND: To take immediate action to halt the ongoing violence, to grant full humanitarian access to the affected areas and to begin a dialogue towards a peaceful resolution.

KUHN: Rohingya activist Tun Khine says that the outside world has focused too much on Myanmar's progress with elections and civil liberties while largely ignoring the lack of progress on ethnic rights.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Jakarta.

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