Human Rights Watch (HRW) today raised concern over violence in Myanmar by releasing satellite photos showing razed Muslim villages following a week of ethnic clashes in the country's west.
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The New York-based rights giant published before and after images of the coastal Kyaukpyu district (you can compare the October 9 and October 26 pictures of the area here) showing destruction spanning 35 acres in violence that leveled 633 buildings and 178 houseboats.
Fighting between Myanmar's Rohingya community and its ethnic Rakhine Buddhists broke out last week and has grown increasingly worrying for a nation only recently transitioned to democratic governance.
A spokesman for Myanmar leader Thein Sein confirmed the violence to BBC News today, saying there "have been incidents of whole villages and parts of the towns being burnt down in Rakhine state," and promising to "send more police and military troops in order to get back stability" if unrest continues.
Rahkine state "appeared calm" today after days of conflict between the two groups, the Buddhist community angered by the presence of the Rohingyas, who migrated from neighboring Bangladesh generations ago, in what they consider their territory, according to the Associated Press.
“Burma’s government urgently needs to provide security for the Rohingya in Arakan State, who are under vicious attack,” HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement today. “Unless the authorities also start addressing the root causes of the violence, it is only likely to get worse.”
It is not clear how many people have been killed in the clashes, with state media citing 67 dead as of Friday, according to Reuters, and HRW, citing witness reports, warning the toll could be considerably higher.
Amnesty International on Friday also issued a statement of concern about the situation in Myanmar, urging authorities to end the "violence" and protect Rohingyas by giving them legal status promised them under the Citizenship Law.
Both AI and HRW have condemned a 1984 law that strips many Rohingya of citizenship and fundamental rights, reported AP. The UN says there are some 800,000 Rohingya in Myanmar.
Violence between the region's majority Buddhists and the Rohingya minority earlier this year left some 90 people dead.
President Thein Sein issued a statement Friday warning that "such unrest could tarnish the image of the country," according to local reports cited by AP.