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Western Burma Violence between Buddhists and Muslims Rages On

October 25, 2012

by VOA News

The death toll is rising in Burma's western Rakhine state as fighting between Buddhists and Muslims continues.

Rakhine state officials said Thursday at least 12 people had been killed in clashes since Wednesday, warning the number of dead since violence erupted Sunday could reach as high as 50. They say dozens have been wounded and that many people are still missing.

Burmese officials also said Thursday almost 2,000 homes have now been burned to the ground, along with eight religious buildings, since the clashes erupted.

The violence has caught the attention of the United Nations. From Rangoon, U.N. coordinator Ashok Nigam issued a statement saying the U.N. is "gravely concerned," adding the fighting "has forced thousands of people, including women and children, to flee their homes."

It is the region's worst unrest since June, when widespread clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims left dozens dead and tens of thousands displaced.

The June violence erupted following the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim men. The unrest prompted fears of a humanitarian crisis among the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and many other basic rights in Burma.

The unrest, which led to a state of emergency in Rakhine, has threatened to undermine the reforms enacted by Burma's new nominally civilian government.

Some rights groups say the Burmese military, which has a long history of abusing minorities, unfairly targeted Muslims during the unrest. Burma's government denies the charges.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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