Myanmar Muslims call off Eid celebrations

Sectarian clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims have led to dozens of deaths this week.

Story highlights

  • A group of Islamic organizations in Myanmar has canceled Eid al-Adha celebrations
  • There have been violent clashes this week between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims
  • Dozens of people have been killed, and thousands of homes have been burnt down

Following a volatile week in Myanmar that has seen a surge in deadly sectarian violence, a group of Islamic organizations in the country announced that it had canceled all celebrations for Eid al-Adha, the four-day religious holiday observed by many Muslims.

No reason was given in the announcement from the All Myanmar Islam Association, a collaboration of five major Islamic organizations there. But locals are seeing it as a precautionary measure after the violence in recent days.

Clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims have flared this week, killing dozens of people and burning thousands of homes to the ground in the western state of Rakhine.

There has been tension between the two ethnic groups since May, when violence began after three Muslim men were arrested on suspicion of raping and killing a Buddhist woman.

New satellite imagery obtained by Human Rights Watch shows what it said was extensive destruction of buildings in a predominantly Rohingya area of the coastal town of Kyauk Pyu. The swath of arson, the group said, stretched over 35 acres and included houseboats and floating barges.

New satellite imagery shows what Human Rights Watch says is extensive destruction in a Rohingya area of Kyauk Pyu.

The government in Myanmar "urgently needs to provide security for the Rohingya ... who are under vicious attack," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "Unless the authorities also start addressing the root causes of the violence, it is only likely to get worse."

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority who say they have been persecuted by the Myanmar military during its decades of authoritarian rule. Myanmar doesn't recognize them as citizens.

    Q&A: What's behind the sectarian violence in Myanmar?

    Unrest between the Rohingya and majority Buddhists has tested President Thein Sein's administration, which is trying to seek reconciliation with Myanmar's different ethnic groups and move the country toward more democratic governance.

    The government has sent extra security into the troubled region and declared a state of emergency. The president's office warned Thursday that "manipulators" behind the violence can expect to be found and prosecuted.

    Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, speaking in Parliament on Friday, called for a greater security presence and urged authorities to investigate suspected human rights offenses.