Major Clashes Break Out Between Soldiers and Muslims in Myanmar [UPDATE]

UPDATED: TIME NEWS, 5:08 PM EDT — U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert tells TIME: “We remain gravely concerned about reports of killings and forced displacements in northern Rakhine state, and we continue to urge the government of Myanmar to allow humanitarian aid and human rights monitors unfettered access to all parts of the state so that we can work to alleviate the suffering of the local populations.”

Myanmar authorities have claimed that a military operation in northern Rakhine State has been cleared and that there have been no new abuses over the last few days.

On May 25, Buddhist mobs attacked Muslim Rohingyas in a village in Maungdaw, sparking a fight that saw security forces and Buddhist villagers respond with force.

The day after the attack, “pro-government Buddhist mobs burn several houses and properties belonging to Muslims in Maungdaw township in Rakhine State,” according to journalists who tried to enter the area for updates.

A large crowd of Buddhists attacked Rohingya, hacking people to death and setting many houses on fire. Dozens of Rohingyas fleeing the gunfire attempted to escape to a nearby Buddhist village, but were violently resisted by a group of monks and Buddhists.

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Two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were covering the armed conflict, were arrested on December 12. They have been charged with violating the Official Secrets Act after handing over five confidential government documents to the journalists.

According to media reports, a Reuters journalist, who was able to get access to the remote region, and monitors estimated that around a hundred people were arrested during the attacks. Reuters reports also note that thousands of people have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

The military has claimed that there have been no new abuses since they began “clearing” operations on May 16, and have been conducting a “clearance operation” in the Maungdaw area after claiming that there have been landmines laid by Muslims. Human Rights Watch has said that there have been “allegations of heavy-handed and deadly security force operations against the Muslim minority community, including massacres and torture.”

Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi met with the security delegation at the United Nations headquarters in New York on May 17, the BBC reported. “The government is concerned about the situation and is doing all that it can to bring peace and stability to the Rakhine State, both to the region and the country as a whole,” Suu Kyi said during the meeting, “The situation [in Rakhine] is extremely complex.”

Sources: Associated Press, The Hindu, BBC, Time

Update: Amethyst blog, U.S. State Department, TIME

This article was originally published on June 19, 2017

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