Updated at 4:40 p.m. on 2012-10-23
Three people have been killed and hundreds of houses torched in renewed violence between Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines in western Burma, where authorities have declared a state of emergency in two restive townships, officials said Monday.
The riots erupted late Sunday in Rakhine state capital Sittwe’s Minbya and Mrauk U townships, in the first major violence between the two communities since deadly clashes rocked the state in June.
Rakhine state authorities said three people were confirmed dead and 300 homes razed by fires in the rioting, which broke out around 10:00 p.m. in Mrauk U’s Paik village and continued overnight.
"The bodies of two Muslim women and one Rakhine man have been found,” the state’s Attorney General Hla Thein told RFA’s Burmese service.
“Around 300 houses—which were small thatched roof houses—were destroyed,” he said.
The townships have been placed under a state of emergency in an apparent bid to contain the violence and officials have been ordered to call in the military if the unrest escalates.
“All local administrative officials are ordered to request assistance from the military if the situation in their areas gets out of hand,” Hla Thein said.
“Two ministers from Rakhine state have been sent to the affected areas to meet with security officials and the local public to control the situation,” he said.
The townships were among those spared curfews during the Rakhine-wide state of emergency that was declared in June amid the worst fighting in years between Rohingyas and Rakhines.
International rights groups have said Rohingyas bore the brunt of the June violence, which left more than 80 dead and tens of thousands displaced.
The fresh clashes in Rakhine on Sunday followed weeks of demonstrations against Muslim states’ wanting to provide humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya in the wake of the summer violence.
The demonstrations were sparked by plans by the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to open an office in Rakhine state in a bid to provide aid to Rohingyas reeling from the violence.
Thousands of Buddhist monks and laypeople have demonstrated against the OIC in cities across the country, where the Rohingya are considered outsiders even though they have lived in the country for generations.
But at a press conference on Sunday, Burmese President Thein Sein that the country has no choice but to welcome aid for the Rohingya, or else it will face an international backlash.
"We need humanitarian assistance. If we reject the humanitarian assistance, the international community will not accept us," he told reporters at a press conference.
"Regarding the OIC, I do not differentiate between religions or ethnicities. They want to give humanitarian assistance and also they have given some," he said, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Rakhines form the majority in Rakhine state, which is also home to some 800,000 Rohingyas.
The U.N. has called the Rohingya a stateless people and one of the most persecuted groups in the world.
Reported by RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Win Naing. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referred to Hla Thein as Rakhine state's chief justice. He is the state's attorney general.