Agence France Presse
Published — Wednesday 5 June 2013
Last update 6 June 2013 12:35 am
YANGON: Three Muslim Rohingya women have been shot dead in a confrontation with security forces at a camp for displaced victims of sectarian violence in western Myanmar, police said Wednesday.
Several episodes of deadly communal unrest have tempered international optimism about the country’s dramatic political reforms as it emerges from decades of harsh military rule.
The latest bloodshed happened on Tuesday at a camp at Parein in Rakhine state after some Rohingya refused to move to new shelters provided by the authorities, local police officer Maung Maung Mya told AFP by telephone.
“The three died as warning shots were fired,” he said, adding that four others were injured.
“They think they will lose their own land if they are moved to the new shelters. So they don’t move.”
The incident came as hundreds of world leaders, business chiefs and media began arriving in Myanmar for the World Economic Forum on East Asia — a chance for the former pariah to showcase its economic and political reforms.
Up to 140,000 people — mainly Rohingya — were displaced in two waves of sectarian unrest between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine last year that left about 200 people dead.
Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. They are considered by the United Nations to be one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.
A government official in Rakhine confirmed the three deaths, accusing Rohingya camp dwellers of attacking security forces because they were unhappy with the new shelters. It was not possible to verify his account.
“The security forces there had to fire back because they cannot control the violence,” he said.
Thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar in rickety and overcrowded boats since the Rakhine violence erupted last year. Scores have died making the perilous journey south toward Thailand and Malaysia.
Human Rights Watch in April accused Myanmar of “a campaign of ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya, citing evidence of mass graves and forced displacement affecting tens of thousands.
The government has rejected the allegations.
Religious unrest has also broken out elsewhere in the ethnically diverse country, with dozens of people dying in violence in central Myanmar in March that mainly targeted Muslims.
Another outbreak of sectarian strife in the eastern state of Shan last month left at least one dead.
President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government has surprised the world since coming to power two years ago with dramatic political and economic changes that have led to the lifting of most Western sanctions.
Hundreds of political prisoners have been freed, democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi has been welcomed into a new parliament and tentative cease-fires have been reached in the country’s multiple ethnic civil wars.
But some rights groups argue that the religious violence shows the lifting of the sanctions was premature.