More than two dozen people were reported dead and thousands more displaced from their homes in western Burma on Tuesday as sectarian violence between the country’s Buddhist and Muslim populations persisted on Burma’s border with Bangladesh.
The escalating violence prompted Burmese President Thein Sein to declare martial law in the Rakhine state over the weekend. Thein Sein also warned that continued violence could pose a significant threat to planned democratic reforms, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a statement Monday urging the international community to call on Burmese authorities to halt the violence in Rakhine.
“The situation in Rakhine State underscores the critical need for mutual respect among all ethnic and religious groups and for serious efforts to achieve national reconciliation in Burma,” Clinton said. “We urge the people of Burma to work together toward a peaceful, prosperous and democratic country that respects the rights of all its diverse peoples.”
Western Burma is home to the Rohingya, a Muslim population of nearly 800,000 characterized by the United Nations as one of the world’s most oppressed ethnic groups. According to news reports Tuesday, Bangladesh turned away boats carrying at least 1,000 Rohingya Muslims who were fleeing the violence in Burma. Bangladesh hosts more than 29,000 refugees from Rakhine.
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Benjamin Gottlieb is a Washington Post intern.