THANDWE, Myanmar: Buddhist mobs killed a 94-year-old Muslim woman and torched more than 70 homes as sectarian violence again gripped Myanmar’s Rakhine state despite a visit by President Thein Sein, officials and residents said.
With attacks reported in several villages on the outskirts of Thandwe, where tensions have been mounting for days, the number of causalities could rise.
More than 700 rioters, some swinging swords, took to the streets in Thabyuchaing, about 10 miles north of the coastal town, on Tuesday afternoon, police officer Kyaw Naing said.
An elderly Muslim woman died of stab wounds in the clashes that followed, the officer said, putting the number of houses set on fire at between 70 and 80.
Smoldering buildings — and several injured Buddhist Rakhines — were seen by the Associated Press in Shwe Hlay. A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not have authority to talk to the media, said Linthi also was hit by rioters.
Both villages are about 10 miles from Thandwe.
The visit by President Thein Sein to the divided region was his first since sectarian violence broke out more than a year ago.
He arrived in the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe under tight security early Tuesday and was scheduled to travel to several more towns, including Maungdaw to the north and, today, Thandwe to the south, said a senior official in the president’s office, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the sensitive trip.
A heavy security presence failed to deter the attackers, however, with witnesses saying soldiers and police made no efforts to step in. A 6 p.m. curfew was imposed.
Thein Sein has been criticized for failing to contain unrest and protect the embattled Muslim minority.