Clashes erupted Friday among Burmese detainees held at an immigration center in Indonesia, leaving eight Buddhists dead and 15 Muslims injured, according to reports.
The fight at the detention center near Medan city in North Sumatra was sparked after Muslim Rohingya refugees saw photos of wreckage from last month’s communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in central Burma, officials said.
More than 100 Rohingyas—most of whom had fled Burma by boat and been intercepted off the Indonesian coast—and 11 Buddhists accused of illegal fishing were housed together at the center.
Detention center chief Yusuf Umardani told the Associated Press a Muslim cleric was attacked by one of the Buddhists while arguing about clashes in central Burma, where at least 43 people died and some 1,300 buildings were destroyed including 37 mosques.
Many of the attacks were led by armed Buddhist mobs against Muslim communities.
Following the attack on the cleric at the detention center, other Rohingyas jumped to his defense and the two sides fought with knives and weapons fashioned from furniture in the detention center, he said.
The eight Buddhists were beaten to death, while three others escaped unharmed and have been moved to a separate building, a local police chief told the news agency.
A police spokesman said 18 Rohingya detainees have been named as suspects.
The UN Refugee Agency issued a statement saying it was saddened by news of the deaths.
"UNHCR is calling for calm among the groups and urging the Indonesian authorities to take action to prevent further violence, including moving individuals into community housing as soon as possible," it said.
The recent clashes in Burma that provoked the fight were the worst since clashes between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas in western Burma’s Rakhine state last year left scores dead and more than 100,000—mostly Rohingyas—displaced.
Thousands of Rohingyas, described by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, have fled Rakhine state since last year’s violence, taking treacherous sea journeys to seek asylum overseas.
On the same day as the fight at the detention center in North Sumatra, Indonesian authorities in Surabaya city, East Java province, arrested 35 Rohingyas for not having valid immigration documents, Agence France-Presse reported.
The group of Rohingyas, which included 12 children, had planned to make a sea crossing to Australia to seek asylum there, it said.
Reported by RFA’s Burmese Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.