Reports have surfaced that ethnic Rohingya were violently targeted during the early hours of Tuesday morning in strife-torn Arakan state in the country’s west.
Activists say at least 10 people, including women and children, were brutally killed after authorities and Rakhine Buddhists attacked and looted a village in retaliation for the apparent murder of a police officer earlier in the week.
Based on eyewitness accounts collected by the Arakan Project, which manages a monitoring network in western Burma, police entered the village in southern Maungdaw Township on Monday night to check family lists of Rohingya living in the area. That triggered a violent skirmish between officials and local youth, in which one police officer may have been killed, the Arakan Project’s Chris Lewa says. Local Rohingya deny the killing.
(MORE: Tourists Enjoy Thai Beaches Unaware of Trafficking Camps Just a Boat Ride Away)
The latest outbreak of violence comes as Burma hosts its first round of meetings as the chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) this week, with foreign ministers from the region holding talks in Bagan.
However, Burmese officials said they would not be discussing the country’s Rohingya population during talks.
The issue “is our internal affair and we will not discuss it in the ASEAN meetings, even if member countries ask for it,” said Ye Htut, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
The Rohingya are widely discriminated against in Burma and seen as interlopers from Bangladesh despite evidence that suggests they have been in Burma for centuries. The Rohingya were stripped of citizenship by the ruling military junta in 1982 and have been systemically excluded from Burmese society ever since.
In 2012, several bouts of ethno-religious rioting erupted in western Burma’s Arakan state, where the vast majority of the Rohingya reside, following the commencement of a pseudo-civilian government following decades of military rule. The violence resulted hundreds of deaths and more than 100,000 people were displaced, mostly Rohingya.
MORE: ‘Same Old’ Burma Releases Political Prisoners Before Sports Event