October 23, 2012 - 13:33 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Fresh clashes between Muslims and Buddhists have broken out in volatile western Myanmar, leaving at least three people dead and hundreds of homes burned to the ground, authorities said Tuesday, Oct 23, according to The Associated Press.
The unrest, which erupted Sunday night, is the worst reported between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists since skirmishes swept the region in June, leaving around 70,000 people displaced.
Sunday's riots took the lives of one Buddhist man and two Muslim women, he said. More than 340 homes, most made of wood, were also destroyed in arson attacks.
There was no immediate word on the situation Tuesday, but Hla Thein said authorities imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the townships on Monday.
The unrest comes four months after the two communities turned on one another across Rakhine state in June after the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim men in late May.
That violence left at least 90 people dead and more than 3,000 homes destroyed, along with dozens of mosques and monasteries.
The crisis in Myanmar's west goes back decades and is rooted in a highly controversial dispute over where the region's Muslim inhabitants are really from. Although many Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, they are widely denigrated here as foreigners — intruders who came from neighboring Bangladesh to steal scarce land.
The UN estimates their number at 800,000. But the government does not count them as one of the country's 135 ethnic groups, and so - like Bangladesh - denies them citizenship. Human rights groups say racism also plays a role: Many Rohingya, who speak a distinct Bengali dialect and resemble Muslim Bangladeshis, have darker skin and are heavily discriminated against.
The conflict has proven to be a major challenge for the government of President Thein Sein, which has embarked on a year of democratic reforms after half a century of military rule ended in 2011.