Security boosted in Myanmar village after mosque attack

CIHANGIR YILDIRIM
ISTANBUL
Published 26.06.2016 23:22

More police were deployed to guard a village in Myanmar after a Rakhine Buddhist mob destroyed a mosque, officials said Saturday. Violence erupted last week when an angry mob of around 200 Buddhists attacked a Muslim village in Bago province. Around 100 police officers were deployed to keep the peace. No more violence has been reported since the rioting, which left a Muslim man injured and a mosque, a religious school and a Muslim cemetery destroyed in the village, officials said. The incident caused tension between the country's Rohingya Muslim minority and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

Police said that around 70 Rohingya villagers, mostly children and women, had to take refuge in the police station in the village. According to a local police source, 50 of the 1,029 households in the village are Muslim.

Last week, Myanmar's military-backed opposition endorsed an ethnic nationalist party's defiance of a government order, saying that it, too, will not use the term "Muslim Community in Rakhine State" to describe the country's persecuted Rohingya community. The opposition refused to accept the ethnonym "Rohingya," instead using "Bengali" to describe the community. Rohingyas identify themselves by that name. Many have lived in Myanmar for generations, but many ethnic Rakhine Buddhists call them "Bengali" to emphasize they came illegally from Bangladesh. Last month, the United Nations warned that violations against the Rohingyas could amount to "crimes against humanity."

Myanmar's nationality law, approved in 1982, denies Rohingya citizenship. According to the law, foreigners cannot become naturalized citizens of Myanmar unless they can prove a close familial connection to the country. In addition to denying them citizenship, Myanmar also denies freedom of travel and access to education along with systematic persecution by the Buddhist majority. Rohingyas are not recognized among the 134 official ethnicities in Myanmar because authorities see them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. They are subjected to forced labor, have no land rights and are heavily restricted by the government. They have no permission to leave the camps built for them, have no source of income and have to rely on the World Food Program to survive. The U.N. considers Rohingyas to be one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

The unrest in Myanmar, which began in 2012, has cost many Rohingyas their lives, and about 140,000 stateless Rohingyas have been placed in internal displaced people camps due to increasingly violent attacks on them, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

The Rohingyas are a Muslim ethnic group living mainly in Myanmar. Rohingyas are thought to be descended from Muslim traders who settled there more than 1,000 years ago. As of 2016, approximately 1.3 million Rohingyas live in Myanmar, and about 300,000 to 500,000 live in Bangladesh.

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