YANGON – Terrified Muslim families on the hide in Burma forests a day after fleeing new sectarian violence that erupted in the divided region.
“We are living in fear,” Myint Aung, a local Muslim official, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Wednesday, September 2.
“Many people, including women and children, are hiding in the forest nearby.
"We are disappointed that we have a government that is unable to provide security for us,” he added.
Terrified Muslims are hiding in fear of their lives after around 800 Buddhist rioters torched homes and attacked local Muslims in a village in the area of Thandwe on Tuesday.
At least five Muslims were killed by Buddhist mobs in the Burmese state of Rakhine on Tuesday, police say.
A 94-year-old Muslim woman, who suffered stab wounds, was among the dead.
"The death toll rose to five - four men and a woman," a Rakhine police official who did not want to be named told AFP on Wednesday, adding that the victims were all killed during Tuesday's violence.
Four Rakhine Buddhists were injured in clashes and a fifth was missing, while 59 houses and a mosque have been torched since tensions flared on Saturday, police said.
Initial police reports confirmed that at least 100 Muslims houses and a mosque were torched and 50 were injured during the rampage which started earlier on Saturday.
Around 250 people have been killed and more than 140,000 left homeless in several outbreaks of inter-religious violence around the country since June 2012, mostly in Rakhine.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been forced to flee their homes in western Burma since June after attacks from Buddhist mobs on their areas.
The anti-Muslim violence spread to central Burma earlier this year, leaving scores of people dead.
The violence has displaced nearly 29,000 people, more than 97 percent of whom are Rohingya Muslims, according to the United Nations.
Many now live in camps, adding to 75,000 mostly Rohingya displaced in June 2012, after a previous explosion of sectarian violence.
Appalled by the sectarian Buddhist rampage, Burma's Muslims organizations have called on the government to secure their protection.
"The concerns of minority Muslims around the country have reached peak levels. They feel they have no security,” four major Burmese Muslim organizations said in a letter sent to President Thein Sein on Tuesday which was cited by AAP.
The Muslim organizations urged the government to implement an urgent 'law-enforcement action', to protect the prosecuted Muslims minority.
"We demand that the government ensures the rule of law in order to protect us," the statement said.
"The Muslim minority is feeling great sorrow after being attacked and we are now living in a high state of fear,” it added.
Thein Sein held meetings with members of Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim communities during his two-day tour.
In a message to a multi-faith conference, which was carried in state media on Wednesday, Thein Sein lamented “instigations fuelling minor crimes into conflicts between the two communities and two religions.”
“Such instability based on religion and race harms and delays the state reforms and tarnishes the national image internationally,” he warned.
Burma’s Muslims -- largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent -- account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population.
Muslims entered Burma en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, which ended in 1948.
But despite their long history, they have never fully been integrated into the country, widely considered as foreigners.
Last year, scores of Muslims were killed and thousands were forced to flee their homes after sectarian clashes with the Buddhist majority in the western state of Rakhine.
Most of the victims were Muslim Rohingya and many remain in camps they are not allowed to leave.
Rights groups have accused the Burmese security forces of killing, raping and arresting Rohingyas following the violence.
In April, more than 40 people were killed and several mosques were burnt in central Burma after a dispute between Muslims and Buddhists in Meikhtila.
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