Thousands Flee Ethnic Violence in Burma

But US praises government response to clashes

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 19, 2012 2:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – Some 90,000 people who have fled ethnic violence in western Burma are in need of emergency food aid, the United Nations warns. The rape and murder of a Buddhist woman last month, for which two men have been sentenced to death, set off violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in which at least 50 people died and thousands of Rohingyas were forced to flee their homes, the AP reports. Some 800,000 Rohingyas live near Burma's border with Bangladesh and neither country recognizes them as citizens.

But unlike in previous outbreaks of violence in Burma, the US government has praised the government's response. "This is something we would not have seen in the past. The government is trying to help everybody who needs it, whether that is Rakhine Buddhists or Muslims," an embassy official tells Reuters. He notes that the Burmese government has been quick to ask for help, unlike in the aftermath of 2008's Cyclone Nargis, when the refusal to allow in foreign aid was blamed for thousands of deaths. Aid workers, however, say thousands of people are still in dire conditions almost a week after the violence subsided.

Hundreds of Rohingyas have been intercepted while attempting to flee to Bangladesh.
Hundreds of Rohingyas have been intercepted while attempting to flee to Bangladesh.   (AP Photo/ Saurabh Das)
A girl and a woman carry useable bricks from damaged buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma.
A girl and a woman carry useable bricks from damaged buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Burma.   (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
A Burmese soldier stands guard near damaged buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state.
A Burmese soldier stands guard near damaged buildings in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state.   (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
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