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New clashes between Muslims, Buddhists break out in Myanmar

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

New Delhi, Oct 24, IRNA -- New clashes between Muslims and Buddhists have broken out in volatile western Myanmar, leaving at least two people dead and more than a thousand homes burned to the ground, authorities said on Wednesday.

The information ministry said the violence was continuing and authorities were trying to restore law and order.

The unrest, which began Sunday night, is some of the worst reported between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists since skirmishes swept the region in June, displacing about 70,000 people.

The latest violence began in Minbyar township, about 25 kilometres north of the state capital, Sittwe. It later spread farther north to Mrauk-U township. Both areas are remote, reachable only by foot, pti reported quoting Rakhine state Attorney General Hla Thein as said in Yangoon.

Authorities imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the townships yesterday, Hla Thein said. He said both areas were calm Tuesday, but the Information ministry announced later in the day that the violence was continuing.

Hla Thein said a Buddhist and two Muslims died in Sunday's riots, but the ministry put the death toll at two. It said over 1,000 houses were destroyed in arson attacks.

The unrest comes four months after members of the two religious groups turned on each other across Rakhine state in June.

The violence left at least 90 people dead and destroyed more than 3,000 homes and dozens of mosques and monasteries. The two groups are now almost completely segregated in towns such as Sittwe, where the Rakhine are able to roam freely while the Rohingya are mostly confined to a series of camps outside the city center.

The last serious clashes in the state took place in August, when government officials said seven people were killed in the town of Kyauktaw. The United Nations said 600 homes were burned at the time.

The crisis in west Myanmar goes back decades and is rooted in a dispute over where the region's Muslim inhabitants are from. Although many Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, they are widely denigrated as foreigners — intruders who came from neighboring Bangladesh to steal scarce land.

The conflict has proved to be a major challenge for the government of President Thein Sein, which has embarked on democratic reforms since a half a century of military rule ended in 2011.

Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 1030492

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