YANGON: Renewed violence between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya has left three people dead in Myanmar, a government official said Monday, amid growing international concern about the sectarian unrest.
The fighting in western Rakhine state has killed 80 people from both sides since June, official figures show, although authorities say the situation has been generally calm in recent weeks.
The new casualties, who were not identified, died on Sunday in Kyauktaw about 100 kilometres north of the state capital Sittwe, said the official, who did not want to be named. Five others were reported wounded.
“The situation is calm and back to normal already,” the official told AFP.“We do not know why it started again.”
The violence initially broke out in June following the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman and the subsequent lynching of 10 Muslims by a crowd of angry Buddhists.
The bloodshed has cast a shadow over widely praised reforms by President Thein Sein, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.
Myanmar’s government has rejected accusations of abuse by security forces in Rakhine, after the United Nations raised fears of a crackdown on Muslims.
The entire state has been under emergency rule since early June with a heavy army and police presence.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused Myanmar forces of opening fire on Rohingya, as well as committing rape and standing by as rival mobs attacked each other.
The authorities failed to protect both sides and then “unleashed a campaign of violence and mass roundups against the Rohingya,” the group said in a report released last week.
Decades of discrimination have left the Rohingya stateless, and they are viewed by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.
Speaking a Bengali dialect similar to one in neighbouring Bangladesh, the Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants by the Myanmar government and many Burmese, and many have attempted to flee overseas in rickety boats.