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Killings spark Burma emergency
From the Herald Sun
BURMA declared a state of emergency yesterday in its western Rakhine state after an eruption of deadly sectarian violence.
An order was signed into effect by President Thein Sein in response to clashes that saw hundreds of Buddhist villagers' homes set ablaze and left seven dead in rioting on Friday and Saturday, state television said. The violence in Rakhine threatens to undermine the progress of Burma's new government, which took power last year following decades of outright military rule and has ushered in a series of reforms.
Rakhine state is named for its dominant, mostly Buddhist ethnic group, but is also home to a large Muslim population including the Rohingya, a stateless people described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.
The Burmese government considers the Rohingya foreigners and not one of the nation's ethnic groups, while many citizens see them as illegal immigrants and view them with hostility.
A cycle of apparent revenge attacks has gripped the state following the recent rape and murder of a Rakhine woman. Last Sunday, an angry Buddhist mob mistakenly believing the perpetrators of the rape were on board a bus beat 10 Muslim passengers to death. Buddhist's are peaceful people but do not forget that in centuries past they developed a range of martial arts as an aid to self defence. Rioting then flared on Friday (Friday again!) when at least four Buddhists were killed in the state, with a second wave of violence in remote villages early Saturday.
A Sittwe resident who declined to be named said he saw an ethnic Rakhine man stabbed and attempts to torch more homes early yesterday, and a standoff between Rakhine and Rohingya groups near the university in the afternoon. Accusing the Rohingya of "invading", he branded the weekend's unrest as "terrorist".
Earlier in the day, around 600 ethnic Rakhine gathered at the Shwedagon Pagoda, a revered Buddhist site in the main city of Yangon, demanding "Bengalis" - a term often used for Muslim communities living near the border with Bangladesh - be "removed from Myanmar".
I know that there is a sizeable number of Christians in Burma also - I believe they were persecuted under the totalitarian dictatorship, but so was everybody. I don't believe that they are regarded with the same level of suspicion.