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SITTWE: Homeless people fled to packed camps or clustered near their charred houses in western Myanmar Sunday, amid ongoing unrest that the UN said displaced 26,500 from mainly Muslim communities.
Dozens have died and whole neighbourhoods have been razed in clashes that began last week between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state, putting further strain on relief efforts in the region.
The United Nations, which has warned that the bloodshed could imperil Myanmar’s reforms, said an estimated 26,500 -- including 4,000 who fled in boats to the state capital Sittwe -- had been forced from their homes by the fresh violence.
This adds to some 75,000 people already crammed into overcrowded camps after unrest in June.
Thousands of homes have been destroyed in the latest wave of arson. A Rakhine official who declined to be identified said violence flared again yesterday in the Pauktaw area, one of around eight affected townships.
Most of those made homeless have remained near their villages, according to the UN, raising concerns about getting aid to remote areas.
Those who fled to Sittwe said of their despair and horror.
“They torched our houses. My child was killed, my husband as well. That will not change even if I stay. Please kill all of us. It’s all I want,” said Cho Cho, a Muslim cradling a baby in her arms as she sat among throngs of displaced people on the shore near a camp on the outskirts of the city.
The distraught 28-year-old said she was afraid of more attacks.
“I do not want to stay in Rakhine State. I really hate it,” she said.
The displaced described fleeing in panic as attackers came, scattering families and forcing people to escape with nothing.
“My father didn’t arrive. My sons didn’t arrive,” 40-year-old Mar Nu told the reporters, saying she was still dizzy from the terror of the flight by boat.
Animosity between Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims, that has simmered for decades, erupted in the state in June after the apparent rape and murder of an ethnic Rakhine woman sparked a series of vicious revenge attacks.
The latest fighting has killed more than 80 people, according to a government official, bringing the total death toll since June to above 170.