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Burma’s Rohingya Problem

Hundreds of homes were burned to the ground and three people were killed as ethnic tension once again boiled over to violence in Burma’s Rakhine state. Al Jazeera has the story:

At least three people have been killed in clashes between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhists in western Myanmar, authorities say.

The unrest in Rakhine state also left hundreds of homes burned to the ground, officials said on Tuesday.

The clashes show that tensions between the two communities remain after widespread violence in June left dozens dead, tens of thousands displaced and prompted rights groups to warn of a humanitarian crisis.

“We got the information that three people, an ethnic Rakhine man and two Muslim women, were killed at Pandeinkone village during yesterday’s clashes,” Hla Thein, Rakhine state chief justice, told the AFP news agency.

“It’s difficult to control the situation.”

Burma’s Rohingya people, unwanted by any country, are caught in a tough spot. When violence swept Rakhine state this summer, refugees tried to return to Bangladesh, where many had come from, but after surviving a journey of days at sea their only welcome was a hail of bullets from Bangladeshi border guards in helicopters.

As the Economist reports, many Muslim countries have heard of the Rohingyas’ plight and want to help. Saudi Arabia pledged to send $50 million but was rebuffed by the Burmese government. Rohingya politicians say the decision was part of a strategy “to keep foreign eyes out as it makes life in Myanmar so intolerable for Rohingyas that those still in the country join the diaspora.”

The Rohingya get no love from Burma’s great human rights defender, Aung San Suu Kyi, either. She avoided talking about their situation and seemed to suggest that some people living in Burma were unwelcome: “We have to be very clear about what the laws of citizenship are and who are entitled to them.”

The most recent outbreak of violence suggests that hopes that Burma’s “reforms” would quickly lead to social and political rights all of Burma’s people were seriously misplaced.

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