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Myanmar raises death toll from clashes

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Myanmar’s state media says the death toll has gone up to 50 in ethnic clashes in the western state of Rakhine, as the UN warned of "immense hardship" faced by thousands displaced by rioting.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said on Saturday that 54 other people were injured and 2,230 houses and buildings were destroyed by fire during the clashes between Rakhine Budhists and Rohingya Muslims.

The report did not say whether the updated toll included 10 Muslims beaten to death on June 3 by a Buddhist mob in apparent revenge for the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman, which sparked the violence.

The violence was a result of long-standing tensions between the ethnic Rakhine community and the minority Rohingya, whom many Rakhines regard as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The Rohingya say they have lived in the region for decades.

A senior state official said on Thursday that 29 people had been killed, but rights groups and other local sources believe the real figure could be much higher, as there was hardly any information from the remote villages.

Despite the apparent cessation of violence, the area still faces a humanitarian crisis because of the numbers of displaced people.

Thousands displaced

Nearly 32,000 people from both sides are being housed in camps across Rakhine, officials in the capital, Sittwe said on Thursday, after thousands of homes were set ablaze.

Unknown numbers of Rohingya have also tried to flee to Bangladesh, but the authorities there have barred their entry.

A UN team witnessed the devastation on a two-day visit to the region, saying that about 10,000 displaced people, both Rakhine and Rohingya, were sheltering in Sittwe alone.

Pledging help for the affected area, UN special adviser Vijay Nambiar praised the government for its "prompt, firm and sensitive" response to the clashes but urged a "full, impartial and credible" probe into the unrest.

Sittwe, a port city and the region's main urban centre, was calm for the fourth straight day, though many shops and markets remained closed and people were still fearful of further arson attacks.

Soldiers were sent to help quell the violence and when the situation spread to Sittwe, President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency, giving the military full administrative powers to keep order.

Myanmar's government doesn’t consider the country's about 800,000 Rohingya Muslims as citizens, thereby rendering them stateless and unable to access to education, health and social security.


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