YANGON: More than 80 people have been killed in a wave of communal violence in western Myanmar this month, a government official said on Thursday.
He said about 71 people had died in more than a week of clashes, in addition to 10 Muslims killed on June 3 by a Buddhist mob seeking revenge for the rape and murder of a local woman — the apparent spark for the unrest.
Rakhine state has been rocked by rioting, arson and a cycle of revenge attacks involving Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya, prompting growing international concern.
Myanmar officials and many Burmese, including the mostly Buddhist ethnic Rakhine, consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, and refer to them as “Bengalis”.
The dead bodies of eight more ethnic Rakhine were found in the village of Yathedaung, about 65 kilometres from the state capital Sittwe, the official said.
“These people were killed during clashes with Bengalis,” he told AFP by telephone from Sittwe.
About 800,000 Rohingya live in Myanmar, according to the United Nations, which describes them as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.
Bangladesh, where an estimated 300,000 Rohingya live, has been turning back Rohingya boats arriving on its shores since the outbreak of the unrest.
Rohingya leaders say the real number of dead could be much higher than the figures given by authorities.