Ethnic and Sectarian Violence Escalates in Burma’s Rakhine State

Ethnic and sectarian violence has hit western Myanmar leading to violent riots among Muslims and Buddhists.

Reports say Burmese army troops were deployed to Rakhine State to halt the escalation of violence.

The situation in Rakhine State is reportedly very critical and unstable.

Unrest raged after security forces reportedly opened fire on Rohingyas and several of them were killed.


Rakhine State is home to large numbers of Rohingya, a Muslim group known as the world’s most persecuted minorities.

The United States today expressed deep concern about reports of ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged all parties to exercise restraint and immediately halt all attacks.

The Burmese Government announced a State of Emergency and curfews in Rakhine State, but reports of violence continue.

The international community has called on authorities to work with local leaders, together with Muslim, Buddhist, and ethnic representatives, including Rohingya, to halt the on-going violence.

Secretary Clinton asked the warring parties to begin a dialogue toward a peaceful resolution, and ensure an expeditious and transparent investigation into these incidents that respects due process and the rule of law.

The United States has welcomed Burma’s recent reform efforts and the important steps President Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other leaders inside and outside of government have taken.

The situation in Rakhine State underscores the critical need for mutual respect among all ethnic and religious groups and for serious efforts to achieve national reconciliation in Burma.

“We urge the people of Burma to work together toward a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic country that respects the rights of all its diverse peoples.” – Ms. Clinton

In April this year, following the formation of a new government in March 2011, Burma made remarkable progress in political, economic, and social development, and national reconciliation.

In his remarks in Washington DC, Kurt M. Campbell, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said remarkable developments have been unfolding in the country.

Positive changes have emerged, ranging from the release of political prisoners, to new legislation expanding the rights of political and civic association, and a nascent process toward ceasefires with several ethnic armed groups.

Although the US assesses this nascent opening as real and significant, the US government also believes it is fragile and reversible. The impact of Burma’s reform efforts has not extended far beyond the capital and major cities. This is particularly true in ethnic minority areas: Fighting continues in Kachin State, coupled with reports of severe human rights violations, according to the US government.

In Rakhine State, systematic discrimination and denial of human rights against ethnic Rohingya remains deplorable, Mrs Clinton said.

The election of Aung San Suu Kyi and 42 other NLD members is the most recent and dramatic example of the political opening underway in Burma.

Recently, the Burmese government released over 500 political prisoners in October 2011 and January 2012 amnesties.

The Burmese government has also made progress toward preliminary ceasefire agreements with several ethnic armed groups including the Chin National Front (January 2012), the New Mon State Party (February 2012), the United Wa State Army (September 2011), and the Shan State Army-North (January 2012), Mr. Campbell reported.

For the first time in 63 years, the Burmese government and the Karen National Union (KNU) entered into a preliminary ceasefire agreement in January 2012, and began follow-up peace discussions the week of April 4 on a host of political issues at the heart of Burma’s longest running internal conflict.

The Burmese government is proceeding with a strong program of economic reforms. After decades of mismanagement, Burma has become the poorest country in Southeast Asia, with approximately one-third of its population living in poverty.

The United States plans to engage the Burmese government to apply non-discrimination principles and to create a “level playing field” for foreign investors.

In 2011, the United States carefully responded to evidence of change in Burma with increased outreach and concrete actions. Important steps were taken on the assistance front, with recent announcements of new activities for microfinance and health, particularly in ethnic minority areas, based on US consultations with civil society in Burma.

The United States has serious and continuing concerns with respect to human rights, democracy, and nonproliferation, and the policy continues to blend both pressure and engagement to encourage progress in all areas. They are especially concerned by serious human rights violations against the ethnic minority Rohingya people, who are denied citizenship and human rights, such as freedom of movement and freedom to marry, among other rights all people should be able to exercise.

As Burma pursues the road for reform, development and democracy, the United States of America expressed commitment to support Burma’s democratic reforms.

In DC, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said from the beginning of the Obama Administration, the US government has pursued a policy of engagement to support human rights and reform in Burma.

The United States maintains extensive, targeted sanctions against the Burmese regime. Sanctions is also targeted against senior leaders of the Burmese government and military, their immediate family members, their key supporters, and others who abuse human rights.

The Obama Administration continues to show commitment to promote democracy and human rights in Burma and on key recent developments in Burma, including the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the 2010 elections, and the formation of a government headed by former top regime general and now President Thein Sein.

The United States is currently pursuing parallel and complementary tracks in a full-scale effort to advance progress on core concerns of the international community, including the unconditional release of all political prisoners, respect for human rights, and an inclusive dialogue with the political opposition and ethnic groups that would lead to national reconciliation.

Mina Fabulous
Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn't preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.