Influx hits Myanmar camps

Influx hits Myanmar camps

Influx hits Myanmar camps

Muslim Rohingyas are seen at a school shelter in the village of Theik Kayk Pyim in Sittwe. Clashes between Buddhists and Muslims cause more than 28,000 people to flee this month, according to UN. AFP Photo

Food, water and medical aid are in short supply at overcrowded camps in violence-hit western Myanmar and “stretched beyond capacity,” the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said yesterday.

Bloodshed between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state has caused more than 28,000 people to flee their homes this month, the UNHCR said in a statement. “It is clearly urgent that law and order be restored to prevent further violence, and that access is facilitated so that aid can be provided to those in need,” the agency said according to Agence France-Presse.

The latest fighting, which erupted on Oct. 21 and has left at least 84 people dead and 129 injured, has seen whole neighborhoods razed in arson attacks that U.N. staff reported resulted in “widespread destruction and displacement.”

Thousands from the mainly Muslim communities in Rakhine state have streamed toward camps already struggling to cope with the 75,000 people displaced by earlier clashes in June. “With the new influx, these already overcrowded camps are being stretched beyond capacity in terms of space, shelter and basic supplies such as food and water,” the UNHCR said, adding that “food prices in the area have doubled and there are not enough doctors to treat the sick and wounded.”

‘Unrest could continue to flare’

Rakhine government spokesman Win Myaing said an increase in displaced people has strained authorities and indicated that the unrest could continue to flare. “Some ask me how long the clashes will continue. We do not know. It could go on for about a month or two. It could even be as long as a year or two,” he said.

The UNHCR raised concerns about reaching the displaced in “extremely hard-to-reach areas,” and said unknown numbers had fled into the hills. Another 6,000 people were stranded on boats or on islets along Myanmar’s west coast and “are looking for safe access to places where they can receive assistance.”

More than 3,000 people have traveled in boats toward the state capital of Sittwe in hopes of finding shelter in the camps on the coast near the outskirts of the city.

Victims of ethnic clashes in western Myanmar lashed out at the government for failing to prevent violence between Muslims and Buddhists, The Associated Press reported.

The crisis has raised international concern and posed one of the biggest challenges yet to Myanmar’s reformist president, Thein Sein, who inherited power from a military junta last year.

Tensions have simmered in western Myanmar since clashes first broke out in June after a Rakhine woman was allegedly raped and murdered by three Muslim men.