2 condemned in killing blamed for Myanmar violence

AP News
Posted: Jun 19, 2012 1:19 AM

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A court in Myanmar has sentenced two men to death for the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman whose killing last month helped set off communal violence in which more than 50 people died, state media reported Tuesday.

The verdict was handed down Monday in western Rakhine state's Kyaukphyu district, according to the state-run Myanma Ahlin daily.

Three Muslim Rohingyas were detained after the 27-year-old Buddhist woman was killed May 28, but one of the three defendants in the case hanged himself while in custody. No executions are known to have been carried out in Myanmar since at least 1988.

The woman's death was followed by the June 3 lynching deaths of 10 Rohingyas, who were dragged off a bus by a Buddhist mob.

The attacks helped set off almost a week of violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingyas, who are denied citizenship and ethnic recognition in Myanmar and instead are viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Thousands of homes were burned and 50 people were killed in the unrest, which has brought to the fore discrimination and hatred against the Rohingya and tested the stability of Myanmar's reform-minded government, which was elected after nearly half a century of army rule.

The United Nations World Food Program estimated Tuesday that there are about 90,000 people displaced by the unrest, and said it has reached about 66,000 of them with emergency food supplies, with the biggest obstacle being poor road and bridges. The agency said it plans to deliver food for about three months.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International meanwhile urged the government to let aid agencies enter the area without hindrances and allow independent investigation of the unrest.

It said that although the violence in Rakhine state has diminished considerably, human rights abuses continue and many people lack adequate food, shelter and medical attention.

Government authorities have vowed to bring those responsible for the violence to justice, and Border Affairs Minister Lt. Gen. Thein Htay had declared lawlessness unacceptable.