Security forces have restored calm after a fresh bout of deadly violence in Arakan state’s Sandoway district.
For three days mobs descended on local villages in Sandoway, killing five people and setting fire to 70 homes, shops and mosques.
A 94-year-old Muslim woman was stabbed to death in her village and four Arakanese Buddhists were being treated in hospital after being attacked on a rural road, said a police inspector by telephone, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Security forces said they had control of the situation on Wednesday but Muslim residents say they were slow to react.
“About 1,000 people approached us. Police didn’t do anything to protect us. Also, they didn’t shoot toward the mob,” said Muslim resident, Hlaing Myint.
Hla Hla Yi, also a Muslim resident, said she was afraid to return to her home.
“I don’t dare to go back to my home because they murdered people. I think it was about five or six who died that day,” she said.
The violence is the first flare-up in three months in the coastal state, the flashpoint of the communal unrest that has dogged Burma’s reformist, quasi-civilian government since June last year.
President Thein Sein on Tuesday made his first visit to Arakan state since taking office and urged the public not to incite violence.
The former general, lauded internationally for his liberal reforms, has struggled to maintain order as deep-rooted tensions that were largely contained under the army’s strict rule boil over in different parts of the country.
“Our international reputation was damaged by the violence. But our explanation to the United Nations and to countries in our region convinced them to understand us,” said the president on Tuesday while addressing a gathering in Maungdaw.
“The most important thing is we shouldn’t allow these things to happen again.”
Clashes between Buddhists and Muslims since June last year have killed at least 237 people in Burma; 192 of those deaths were in Arakan state where Rohingya Muslims, most of whom are stateless, bore the brunt of the attacks.