Nearly 5,000 houses of Buddhists, Hindus gutted in Myanmar as tensions simmer

Buthidaung, which is 25 kms away from the Bangladesh border, is now under complete control of rebel ethnic group Arakan Army.
This undated photo released by the Free Burma Rangers, shows a monastery destroyed by a Burmese military airstrike on March 31, 2024, in Papun, Karen state, Myanmar.
This undated photo released by the Free Burma Rangers, shows a monastery destroyed by a Burmese military airstrike on March 31, 2024, in Papun, Karen state, Myanmar.Photo | Associated Press

NEW DELHI: The situation in Myanmar continues to be on the grim with increased fighting between the military-led Junta army and the ethnic rebel groups across many parts specially in Rakhine state.

The tensions have taken a communal turn with reports of nearly 5,000 houses belonging to Buddhists and Hindus being gutted in Buthidaung, which is just 25 km away from Bangladesh border.

"These 5,000 houses were targeted as they belonged to Buddhists and Hindus. Most people had fled to safer zones so many houses were empty, but those who were left behind were pulled out and their houses looted and burnt in front of their eyes. Conscripts who include young boys from Rohingya camps in Bangladesh are being used for this exercise,’’ according to a source.

These houses were gutted between April 11th and 21st. Buthidaung is now under complete control of rebel ethnic group Arakan Army.

Reports suggest that most of the local Muslims living in Buthidaung and Maungdaw township are not supporting the communal divide and some have sought help from the ethnic rebels to move to safer zones.

"In 2018 census there were 3000 houses in Buthidaung. This number has increased more than threefold to 10000 as many people fled their homes from other areas to settle here. Over 50 per cent of residents are Muslims while the remaining are ethnic groups (Buddhists, Hindus),’’ according to a source.

It may be recalled that communal tensions had flared up in Rakhine state more than a decade back, which led to the exodus of Rohingyas and many of them sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.

"Some Rohingyas from refugee camps are being forced as conscripts and even though a few flee, the others end up fighting the civilians. This strategy of divide and rule will worsen things on the ground,’’ a source added.

Thousands of young people from across Myanmar have fled to safer zones, some have even crossed over to other countries to avoid forced conscription.

Meanwhile, recently, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister, Hasan Mahmud said that they were hoping that the Rohingya refugees they are sheltering would return to Myanmar. There are said to be one million Rohingyas in Bangladesh.

There are reports of 138 Myanmar military personnel including a lieutenant colonel and two majors of Myanmar who have taken refuge in Bangladesh.

"They will be sent back the same way as other military men were repatriated,’’ Mahmud said last week adding that the Rohingyas too wanted to return.

Meanwhile, people who have fled are facing survival issues due to lack of livelihood facilities.

The only respite will happen in Myanmar once monsoons begin in a few weeks. Mobility becomes restricted and the clashes on the grounds reduce drastically for nearly two months.

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