The 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Saturday "strongly condemned" what it called a new wave of attacks on Muslim Rohingyas in Burma amid a report that an entire section of a town occupied by the stateless group has been burned to the ground by mobs.
OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said in a statement that the violence, taking place at a time when the Muslim world was celebrating the Eid al Adha marking the end of the annual haj pilgrimage to Mecca, "is deplorable and a blatant violation of human rights."
Violence between Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines erupted anew in the western Burmese state of Rakhine last Sunday, leaving 67 people dead, 95 injured and 2,818 houses burned down in seven townships, according to state television.
The OIC chief's statement came as U.S.-based Human Rights Watch claimed new satellite imagery showed "extensive destruction of homes and other property in a predominantly Rohingya Muslim area of the coastal town of Kyauk Phyu"—one of several areas gripped by the new violence.
Human Rights Watch identified 811 destroyed structures on the eastern coastal edge of Kyauk Phyu following arson attacks reportedly conducted on Wednesday, less than 24 hours before the satellite images were captured.
"The area of destruction measures 35 acres (14 hectares) and includes 633 buildings and 178 houseboats and floating barges adjacent on the water, all of which were razed," the rights group said in a statement.
"There are no indications of fire damage to the immediate west and east of this zone of destruction."
Media accounts and local officials said that many Rohingyas in the town fled by sea toward Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, 124 miles (200 kilometers) to the north, according to Human Rights Watch.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the Burmese government "urgently needs to provide security for the Rohingya in Rakhine state who are under vicious attack.”
“Unless the authorities also start addressing the root causes of the violence, it is only likely to get worse,” he said.
A Burmese government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Agence France-Presse that the death toll in the worst violence between the two groups since June had climbed to 82 people with 129 people injured.
The Associated Press quoted Rakhine state government spokesman Win Myaing as saying no new clashes were reported Saturday.
Human Rights Watch fears the death toll is far higher than that reported by the government, citing "allegations from witnesses fleeing scenes of carnage and the government’s well-documented history of underestimating figures that might lead to criticism of the state."
Some 800,000 Rohingyas live in Rakhine state, where ethnic Rakhines form a majority. Rohingya residents are regarded as outsiders and immigrants from Bangladesh even though many have lived in Burma for generations.
The latest clashes in Rakhine followed demonstrations in cities across the country against plans by the OIC to set up an office in Rangoon to channel aid to Rohingyas reeling from the June violence in which more than 80 people were killed and 75,000 mostly Rohingya residents displaced.
Several thousands more Rohingya have been displaced by the new fighting, putting added pressure on the humanitarian needs in the state, Human Rights Watch said.
In his statement Saturday, OIC chief Ihsanoglu urged the Burmese authorities "to deploy concrete measures to put an end to the aggressive acts against Muslims in Rakhine state and to ensure the safety and security of the lives and property of the Muslim community" in the country.
He also wanted the authorities to bring the perpetrators of the violence before justice and enact a policy of integration and reconciliation between Muslim and Buddhist communities.
He called for the need to "effectively address the core causes of the violence by eliminating the pervasive discrimination practiced against the Rohingya Muslim community, whose right of citizenship should be recognized."
Ihsanoglu reiterated the OIC’s readiness to provide humanitarian assistance and services to the victims of the violence.
The United Nations, which considers the Rohingyas as of the most persecuted groups in the world, has warned that Burma's fledgling democracy could be "irreparably damaged" by the clashes.
"The fabric of social order could be irreparably damaged and the reform and opening up process being currently pursued by the government is likely to be jeopardized," a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said in a statement this week that described the violence as "deeply troubling."
"The widening mistrust between the communities is being exploited by militant and criminal elements to cause large-scale loss of human lives," the statement said.
Reported by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.