The violence has ebbed but tensions remain high in Rakhine state in the western region of Burma, following some of the worst ethnic and sectarian unrest in that country in years. Reports from the region indicate that dozens of villages have been burned and more than 15,000 people have been displaced in a conflict that has enveloped many from various ethnic and religious backgrounds, including ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, Muslims, and the Rohingya.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the situation in her July 13 meeting with Burmese President Thein Sein and the United States continues to urge a peaceful resolution and monitor events there closely.
The unrest began in early June with the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman, allegedly perpetrated by three Muslims. Following this attack, a mob attacked a bus with Muslims returning from a religious pilgrimage, killing 10 in an apparent retaliatory act. Since these incidents, violence has increased and spread, targeting the Rohingya ethnic minority who are predominately Muslim, but reportedly were not involved in either the rape or bus incidents.
The Burmese government’s response has been measured and relatively encouraging. A state of emergency was imposed and the president deployed military forces there to prevent further attacks. He also called for an end to racist and religiously motivated violence. Burma's government does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group and has denied them citizenship, although many have lived in Burma for generations.
The U.S. joins with others in the international community and calls on authorities to work with local leaders, together with Muslim, Buddhist, and ethnic representatives, including Rohingya, to begin a dialogue toward a peaceful resolution. We also continue to urge authorities to investigate the violent attacks in Rakhine state and bring those responsible to justice in a timely manner and in accordance with due process.