Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state is in the throes of a sharp escalation of violence after several troops and armed men were killed in clashes on the border with Bangladesh.
According to state media reports on Wednesday, 12 people were killed the day before when troops came under attack. It came after nine border guards were killed in Sunday’s clashes in the state.
While the identity of the attackers is not known yet, some officials have been quick to accuse Rohingya Muslims while others have pointed the finger at Bangladeshi groups.
The clashes have raised the specter of a repeat of the 2012 unrest, when Buddhist extremists killed scores of Muslims and torched their property across Rakhine, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.
The Rohingyas have no militant faction to fight for them but police in Myanmar have blamed a number of attacks in the past on the Muslims.
On Tuesday, the UN called for maximum restraint as the army sent troops to the restive state where soldiers have been scouring the region for suspects.
State media say a total of six suspects behind the border attacks are being held by authorities who have released few details about the attackers or their motives.
The UN special adviser on Myanmar Vijay Nambiar warned against any action which could lead to “incitement of animosity or mutual hatred between Buddhist and Muslim communities.”
He urged the security personnel “to exercise caution in the future to avoid any injuries or loss of innocent civilian lives, collateral damage to properties or any perception of harassment of the local population.”
Buddhist extremists have sought to brand Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite many tracing their lineage in Myanmar back generations.
Rights groups have called Rohingyas one of the world’s most persecuted peoples who face severe restrictions on their movement and access to basic services both in and outside squalid displacement camps.