World Bulletin / News Desk
A human rights group expressed concern for the safety of thousands of Muslims on Saturday after revealing satellite images of a once-thriving coastal community reduced to ashes during a week of violence in western Myanmar.
The images released by the New York-based Human Rights Watch show "near total destruction" of a predominantly Rohingya Muslim part of Kyaukpyu, one of several areas in Rakhine state where attacks happened.
More than 811 buildings and houseboats were razed in Kyaukpyu on Oct. 24, forcing many Rohingya to flee north by sea toward the state capital Sittwe, said Human Rights Watch.
"Burma's government urgently needs to provide security for the Rohingya in Arakan (Rakhine) State, who are under vicious attack," said Phil Robertson, the group's deputy Asia director.
There were widespread unconfirmed reports of boatloads of Rohingyas trying to cross the sea border to neighbouring Bangladesh, which has denied them refugee status since 1992.
Dozens of boats full of Rohingyas with no food or water had fled Kyaukpyu, an industrial zone important to China, and other recent hotspots were seeking access on Friday to overcrowded refugee camps around the state capital Sittwe, according to four Rohingya refugee sources.
Some boats were blocked by security forces from reaching the shore and few Rohingyas managed to reach the camps, the sources said by telephone.
Wan-lark foundation, an organisation that has been assisting Rakhine Buddhist refugees, said no clashes in the state had been reported to them since Friday night, but dead bodies of Rakhines had been found.
"Around 6pm last night in Kyawtyaw, the bodies of 16 Rakhines were found in the sea. They had died during the attacks on Thursday. We're looking for more bodies," representative Tun Mein Thein said on Saturday.
A Rakhine government spokesman put the death toll at 112 as of Friday. But within hours state media revised it to 67 killed from Oct. 21 to 25, with 95 wounded and nearly 3,000 houses destroyed.
The death toll could be far higher, said Human Rights Watch, citing "allegations from witnesses fleeing scenes of carnage and the government's well-documented history of underestimating figures that might lead to criticism of the state."
The clashes come just five months after communal unrest killed more than 80 people and displaced at least 75,000 in the same region.
A boat carrying 120 Muslims from Kyaukpyu was intercepted by Rakhines, who killed the men and raped the women, the advocacy group Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK said in a statement. This claim could not be verified.
"Ethnic cleansing is happening under the noses of the international community and they are doing nothing," said Tun Khin, the group's president. "We have confirmed reports that hundreds of people have been killed and the government must be aware of that."
Kyaukpyu is crucial to China's most strategic investment in Myanmar: twin pipelines that will carry oil and natural gas through the town on the Bay of Bengal to China's energy-hungry western provinces.
The United Nations has warned that Myanmar's fledgling democracy could be "irreparably damaged" by the violence.
It was unclear what set off the latest arson and killing that started on Sunday. In June, tension flared after the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman that was blamed on Muslims, but there was no obvious spark this time.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International have called on Myanmar to amend or repeal a 1982 citizenship law to end the Rohingyas' stateless condition.
Rohingyas are officially stateless. Buddhist-majority Myanmar's government regards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in the country as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and not as one of the country's 135 official ethnic groups, and denies them citizenship.
But many of those expelled from Kyaukpyu are not Rohingya but Muslims from the officially recognised Kaman minority, said Chris Lewa, director of the Rohingya advocacy group, Arakan Project. "It's not just anti-Rohingya violence anymore, it's anti-Muslim," she said.
Seismic activity grows around Mount Agung on Bali island, expert says
Oct. 22 set for general election, local media reports, as opposition in disarray
Iranian president confirms to Iraq’s Abadi: Our country has Iraq’s full support for actions taken to preserve it's unity
One of the surrenders was tagged as an expert in bomb-making
Quake caused power outage of the affected areas, and patients had to be rushed to Wao District Hospital
Malaysian Foreign Minister opposes statement by ASEAN: Does not represent reality, did not mention Rohingya Muslims
Intelligence reports revealed the group would bomb public places in the city in three days
Cargo plane arrives at capital Dhaka with 100 tons of supplies
Ri Yong-ho told the General Assembly that Trump's vow to "totally destroy" his country if necessary had made "our rockets' visit to the entire US mainland all the more inevitable."
The China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC) said in a statement late Saturday that study of infrasonic data determined "the incident is not a nuclear explosion, but had the nature of a natural earthquake".
The hermit state's foreign minister meanwhile derided Donald Trump as "mentally deranged" at the United Nations, while the US president fired back on Twitter with fresh threats.
Bangladesh's four mobile phone providers were threatened with fines if they provide any of the nearly 430,000 newly arrived refugees from Myanmar with phone plans while the ban is in force.
Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency said the number of people fleeing their homes surrounding the volcano had tripled since Friday amid growing alarm that Mount Agung could erupt at any moment.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing in the west of the Afghan capital.
Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano said the country, being a sovereign nation, expects respects from the United Nations
Such set-piece rallies, organised by the authorities, are a regular feature of political life in Pyongyang, and are intended as a physical demonstration of popular support for the leadership.