YANGON, Burma (AP) — Two people were killed and six wounded when security forces tried to quell a dispute at a refugee camp housing Muslims in western Burma, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.
Thursday morning’s dispute was apparently triggered by disagreements over how some 4,400 ethnic Rohingya at the camp in Pauktaw township should be resettled, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement. The camp houses Muslims displaced by deadly sectarian fighting in Rakhine state last year that pitted Buddhists against Muslims.
Last year’s fighting saw several hundred people killed and drove as many as 140,000 others from their homes, either fleeing for safety or because they were burned down. The vast majority of victims were from the Muslim Rohingya community, and most still live in poor conditions at camps for the internally displaced people.
Vivian Tan, a UNHCR spokeswoman in the Thai capital of Bangkok, said Thursday’s dispute involved only Muslims and was not directly connected to Buddhist-Muslim tensions. She said it was unclear whether all those involved were Muslim Rohingya, or whether Muslims from the smaller Kaman minority might also have been involved.
The agency’s statement said that residents of the Kyein Ni Pyin IDP camp feuded with a nearby village leader, with distrust “compounded by false rumors that displaced people would be isolated and prevented from returning to their places of origin.” The casualties occurred when soldiers fired shots to disperse a crowd that had gathered at a military post to demand the village leader be handed over to them, the statement said.
Tan said that when the crowd approached the military post, the soldiers “fired into the air. Subsequently, something went wrong.”
Three women died in a similar incident near another camp earlier this month, with clashes breaking out between police and Muslim villagers in Mrauk-U township after police told displaced people to move to temporary shelters.
The U.N. agency’s statement called for an investigation into Thursday’s incident.
“The agency is appealing to the authorities to handle the matter in a peaceful and calm way to avoid fueling further violence and loss of life,” it said.