27 Oct 2012

Refugees from conflict cram camps in Myanmar

8:44 pm on 27 October 2012

Thousands of displaced people have surged towards already overcrowded camps in western Myanmar, also known as Burma, after vicious new communal violence that has left dozens dead.

Seething resentment between Buddhists and Muslims erupted this week in a wave of fresh unrest in Rakhine state, prompting international warnings that the unrest imperils Myanmar's nascent reform process.

The official death toll stands at 67, about half of whom were women, according to a state spokesperson.

The United Nations says tens of thousands of mainly Muslim Rohingya are already crammed into squalid camps around the state capital, Sittwe, after deadly violence in June, and the latest fighting has caused a further 3200 to make their way towards the shelters.

A Rakhine government spokesperson concedes that authorities are struggling to provide relief to the Rohingya, who escaped in boats as violence engulfed their townships.

Myanmar's 800,000 Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh by the government and by many Burmese, who call them "Bengalis".

The stateless Rohingya have long been considered by the UN as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.