Ongoing Myanmar clashes leave 96 dead, including six civilians
Myanmar's government and advocates for the country's Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority traded charges yesterday of killing civilians, burning down buildings and planting land mines, as clashes that began last week when insurgents launched attacks against police posts continued.
An announcement posted online by the office of the country's leader, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, said the death toll from the violence that started Thursday night had reached 96, mostly alleged Rohingya attackers but also 12 security personnel.
The announcement was the first by the government to list civilians among the dead six people identified as Hindu said to have been killed by the insurgents.
Myanmar is overwhelmingly Buddhist, but about one million Muslim Rohingya live in the northern part of Rakhine, the western state where the violence is taking place.
Advocates for the Rohingya suggest many more civilians have died in army attacks on villages, but they have not given a total. They also say the attacks have caused villagers to flee to the mountains for shelter or to try to cross the border into Bangladesh.
Senior Rakhine state officials who visited the troubled area said Sunday evening that government forces were trying to restore peace.
"We are trying our best to bring stability and now we can see the areas are stabilising," said Nyi Pu, the state's chief minister. "But anything can happen at any time, so I can't say what will happen."
Dr Win Myat Aye, union minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement, said: "We are now focusing strongly on the security matters to make the area more secure. And we are also increasing our military strength."
Witnesses and refugees on the Bangladesh border said yesterday that the situation there was tense, with thousands of Rohingya trying to flee Myanmar but unable to leave. Witnesses said they heard the sound of gunshots. Bangladeshi villagers said they could see military helicopters hovering in the Myanmar sky.