The sectarian violence in Myanmar's western state of Arakan began in June 2012, and the plight of the persecuted Rohingya ethnic group has since created an international uproar. Displays of solidarity with the predominantly Muslim Rohingya people have been most potent throughout the Islamic world, with a broad spectrum of support ranging from moderate political leaders to extremist groups.
While rights advocacy groups robustly condemn Myanmar's government for its role in the conflict, evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of violence was attributed to rioting civilians from both the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community and the ethnic Rohingya Muslim community. The initial violence broke out on May 28th after reports circulated that a Buddhist Rakhine woman was raped and killed by three Muslim men in the town of Ramri. Buddhist communities throughout the state responded by circulating an incendiary pamphlet containing details of the crime. This only served to enflame the already tense situation in Arakan, precipitating a series of events that would draw the attention and condemnation of much of the world.
On June 3rd, a large group of Rakhine villagers in Toungop stopped a bus and brutally killed 10 Muslims on board. In response to this contemptible act of brutality, several thousand Rohingya rioted in the town of Maungdaw on June 8th, destroying Rahkine property and killing an unknown number of predominately Buddhist villagers. These events prompted large-scale, sectarian violence that quickly swept through the Arakan State capital of Sittwe and surrounding localities. Mobs from both communities stormed unsuspecting villages, killing residents and destroying homes, businesses, and places of worship. Given the extreme poverty and sparse government security presence in the region, residents armed themselves with machetes, sticks, sharpened bamboo spears and other basic weapons in order to defend themselves. Vast stretches of homes, businesses, and property from both communities were completely destroyed, leaving thousands of residents displaced.
These events elicited an international outcry, with much of the world showing sympathy for the Rohingya communities who have long suffered systematic discrimination under Myanmar's military junta that continues today under the newly elected civilian government. During the British colonial occupation, the lack of political borders between Arakan and Bengal (presently referred to as Bangladesh) caused the Muslim population to surge prior to Myanmar's independence. It is precisely this migration that Burmans interpret to be evidence of the community's illegal status. [The Development of a Muslim Enclave in Arakan (Rakhine) State of Burma (Myanmar), Kanda University of International Studies, 2005] Since 1982, a citizenship law passed by the former military government has excluded the Rohingya from citizenship, effectively rendering them stateless. Although records of Rohingya settlements in Arakan date back to the late 7th century, successive governments have asserted that the Rohingya are foreigners with no right to live in Myanmar, a view shared by much of the Arakan population and much of the dominant Burman ethnic group throughout the country.
Source: Global Research