Turkey has expressed deep concern at a recent escalation in tensions in Myanmar's western Rakhine State, where at least 86 people have died in the last six weeks and hundreds have been arrested.
In a statement released Friday, the foreign ministry referred to an ongoing situation that began Oct. 9 when the Myanmar government says border police officials were attacked. "We are deeply concerned about the civilian casualties and escalation of tensions in Myanmar's northern Arakan [Rakhine] State after last month's attacks in which nine security officials were killed and security forces targeted," the ministry said.
Since Oct. 9, Myanmar has said that at least 86 people -- 17 soldiers and 69 alleged "attackers" (among them two women) -- were killed, and property was destroyed in an area occupied by Rohingya Muslims.
Groups representing the country's stateless ethnic Muslim minority, however, claim that the number of civilians killed in one weekend alone earlier this month could be as high as 150.
There has been no independent verification of the attacks or arrests as access to the affected area near the Bangladesh border has been under military control since Oct. 9 Turkey underlined in its statement that it "condemned all acts of violence that target innocent people". "We invite all parties to act with prudence so that violence should not lead to new ethnic and religious conflicts," it added.
The ministry urged all international organizations and the Myanmar government for "maximum cooperation". A law passed in Myanmar in 1982 denied Rohingya -- many of whom have lived in Myanmar for generations -- citizenship, making them stateless.
The law denies the Rohingya rights to Myanmar nationality, removes their freedom of movement, access to education and services, and allows arbitrary confiscation of property.
Myanmar nationalists have since taken to referring to the Rohingya -- which the United Nations calls one of the most persecuted people in the world -- as Bengali, which suggests they are not Myanmar nationals but interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh.