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Muslim Rohingya people sit on the floor inside the Bawdupha Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, yesterday.
KUALA LUMPUR: Myanmar has rejected an offer by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to open talks aimed at quelling deadly communal violence there, the regional bloc’s chief said yesterday.
Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said he proposed setting up tripartite talks between the association, the United Nations, and Myanmar’s reformist government to prevent the violence having a broader regional impact.
But he said Myanmar turned down the offer to discuss the bloodshed in Rakhine state that has seen around 180 people killed since June in the restive west of the country.
“Myanmar believes it is their internal matter, but your internal matter could be ours the next day if you are not careful,” he told reporters after delivering a speech at a forum in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
Fresh fighting in Rakhine state this month saw another 88 killed and added to the thousands of homes torched, with tens of thousands of minority Muslim Rohingya now living in overcrowded camps. Rights groups fear the actual number killed could be much higher.
Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government, which has been lauded by Western nations for a series of democratic reforms after decades of outright military rule, has imposed emergency rule in the face of continued tension in the region.
The bloodshed has pit Buddhists against Muslims. Other Muslims in Rakhine have also been swept up in the latest violence, including the Kaman, one of Myanmar’s officially recognised ethnic groups.
The new fighting has caused an influx of boats carrying thousands of people to the Rakhine state capital Sittwe.
The United Nations estimates that 26,500 people -- mostly Muslims -- have been displaced since October 21, in addition to about 75,000 people already crammed into squalid camps following the June unrest.
Myanmar’s 800,000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority, are viewed as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh by the government and many Burmese.
The unrest has prompted a growing international outcry, with the United Nations warning it could jeopardise the country’s widely praised reforms.
The Rohingya have long been considered by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities on the planet.