20 Jun 2012

US praises Myanmar response to sectarian clashes

6:15 am on 20 June 2012

The United States on Tuesday praised Myanmar's response to recent deadly sectarian fighting, despite criticism by rights group Amnesty International.

After two days of clashes between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, the president on 10 June declared a state of emergency in Rakhine state, sent security reinforcements and imposed a curfew.

The World Food Programme said on Tuesday the recent violence had displaced 90,000 people, or three times more than the government's estimate. This has raised fears that the official death toll of 50 could also rise dramatically.

US embassy's charge d'affaires in Myanmar, Michael Thurston, said the government was is trying to help everybody who needs it whether that is Rakhine Buddhists or Muslims.

He said the government had been quick to ask for international help.

The vote of confidence will be a welcome relief to reformist President Thein Sein, Reuters reports.

But Amnesty International says Muslim Rohingyas are still fleeing arbitrary arrest by border forces.

It says there has been no mention in the state media of the hundreds of Rohingyas attempting to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Amnesty says an estimated 1500 people had been illegally denied refuge by Bangladesh.

The violence in Myanmar was triggered by the killing of a 27-year-old Buddhist woman on 28 May. A district court this week sentenced two men to death for her rape and murder.

Following the woman's murder, about 300 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists beat to death 10 Muslims they wrongly believed were connected to the rape, according to witnesses. Those killings sparked Rohingya riots that descended into mob violence by both sides. No one has been held accountable for the Muslim killings.