Posted: Oct 28, 2012 12:40 AM
Updated: Oct 28, 2012 12:40 AM
SITTWE, Myanmar (AP) Victims of Myanmar's latest explosion of Muslim-Buddhist violence fled Sunday to already packed displacement camps along the country's western coast as a top U.N. official said the unrest has forced more than 22,000 people from their homes.
Boats carrying some of those fleeing arrived outside the state capital, Sittwe. They trudged to the nearby Thechaung camp, a place already home to thousands of Rohingya Muslims who took refuge there after a previous wave of violence in June.
"I fled my hometown Pauktaw on Friday because there is no security at all," said 42-year-old fisherman Maung Myint, who arrived on a boat carrying 40 other people, including his wife and six children. "My house was burned to ashes and I have no money left."
Another Muslim refugee said she fled her village, Kyaukphyu, on Thursday after attackers set her home on fire.
"We don't feel safe," said 40-year old Zainabi, a fish-seller who left with her two sons, aged 12 and 14. "I wish the violence would stop so we can live peacefully.
Myanmar's government has put the death toll at 67 over the last week, saying 95 more people were injured and 2,818 houses were burned down from Sunday through Thursday in seven townships in Rakhine state.
The casualty figures have not been broken down by ethnic group, but Human Rights Watch said the Rohingya had suffered the brunt of the violence. The New York-based rights group also said the true death toll may be higher, based on witness accounts and the government's history of minimizing news that might reflect badly on it.
Ashok Nigam, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, said the figure of 22,587 displaced included both Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, but he gave no breakdown.
The latest unrest pushes the total displaced to nearly 100,000 since clashes broke out in June.
Speaking to The Associated Press while visiting Thechaung camp, Nigam said getting aid to the new wave of displaced will be a challenge as some fled on boat and others have sought refuge on isolated hilltops.
"The situation is certainly very grave and we are working with the government to provide urgent aid to these people," he said.
Associated Press Writer Aye Aye Win contributed to this report from Yangon, Myanmar.