Attempts to bring stability to Myanmar’s strategic northwest Rakhine State could be unravelling after police opened fire on Rohingya Muslims for the third time in two months, reviving tensions in a region beset by religious violence last year.
Villages outside the state capital Sittwe remain volatile after a dispute over custody of a dead Rohingya quickly escalated into a day of clashes on Friday in which police raked Rohingya crowds with gunfire, according to witnesses.
The violence underscores the growing Rohingya desperation in the face of an increasingly unsparing police response. At least two people were killed and more than a dozen injured, locals said.
The renewed tensions come despite government efforts to bring calm to Rakhine State, after two eruptions of communal violence with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists last year killed at least 192 people and left 140,000 homeless, mostly Rohingya.
The battered corpse of the fisherman washed ashore at Ohntawgyi village after Friday morning prayers, triggering a day of clashes in which police raked crowds of Rohingya with gunfire.
A military intelligence source in Sittwe put the toll at one dead and nine injured, while the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said only three people had suffered “minor injuries”.
Apartheid-like policies have segregated Buddhists from Muslims, many of whom fester in primitive camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) with little hope of resettlement.
A Reuters photographer and video journalist who visited the area said the situation remained tense as Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, arrived in Sittwe on Monday.