More than a thousand residents of northwestern Myanmar’s Rakhine state may have died in recent weeks of ethnic clashes, a number far greater than that provided in government estimates, a U.N. representative for Myanmar says.
Though official tolls point to only 432 killed, including 15 security personnel and 30 civilians, “perhaps a thousand or more are already dead,” U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee told Agence France Presse (AFP) in an interview on Friday.
Most of those killed have been members of Myanmar’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority group, Lee added.
“It’s going to be one of the worst disasters that the world and Myanmar [have] seen in recent years,” Lee told AFP.
Lee also questioned government reports that Muslim villages in Rakhine are being set on fire by their own residents, noting that Myanmar has now entered its rainy season and that nearby villages occupied by Rakhine’s ethnic Buddhist majority have been left largely untouched.
“If you have got people with guns and you’re running away and it’s damp, how easily can you set your own house on fire?” Lee asked.
Around 670,000 Rohingya now live in refugee camps along neighboring Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar, with nearly 357,000 of these fleeing across the border following armed raids by Islamic militants on Myanmar police posts in October.
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Reported by Thiha Htun, Kyaw Thu, and Khin Maung Soe for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.
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