Bangladesh accused Muslims on Monday of attacking Buddhist temples near Cox’s Bazar near the Burmese border on Saturday, where more than a dozen temples and at least 50 homes were set afire.
|A burned Buddhist temple in Cox's Bazar on Sunday, September 30, 2012. Photo: Tun Naing / Facebook|
“The attacks on temples and houses in Buddhist localities in Ramu and neighboring areas in Cox's Bazar were perpetrated by radical Islamists,” Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir told reporters in Dhaka. “Rohingyas and political opponents of the government were also involved in the attacks.”
He described the attacks as a “premeditated and deliberate attempt” to disrupt communal harmony.
Rohingyas in Burma and Buddhist Rakhine in neighboring Burma were involved in widespread community violence beginning in June, when up to 90 people were killed and thousands of homes burned. Rohingyas are not included in any census in multi-ethnic Burma and have no citizenship. Rohingya refugees from Burma have lived as stateless people in Bangladesh, where many are provided for by the UN and humanitarian agencies.
Police said the latest attacks were launched after Muslims found a Facebook photo of a burned Koran, allegedly posted by a young Buddhist man who was taken into safe custody by police, Reuters said.
Though most Rohingyas were turned back from Bangladesh during the summer's violence, local residents accused some of infiltrating the country and teaming up with Islamists activists.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, attending the UN General Assembly in New York, called for tough measures to prevent further attacks on minority communities, state media reported.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week discussed the Rohingya issue in a meeting with Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and Burma’s President Thein Sein on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly of world leaders.
During his meeting with Ihsanoglu, Ban “indicated the importance of the situation in Rakhine [State, Burma] being treated carefully” because of the potential wider implications of the Rakhine issue spilling over to other countries and on the overall reform process in Burma.
An OIC committee set up to deal with the Rohingya issue met for the first time in New York this week and called for Rohingyas to be given rights as citizens in Burma. Ihsanoglu said he wanted to visit Burma when the government was ready “to remedy the fundamental rights issues of the Rohingya Muslims.”
A Voice of America report on Monday said Bangladesh’s Buddhists are less than one percent of the population, and most live close to the border with Buddhist-majority Burma.
“There was a simmering discontent among a section of the Muslims here in the bordering areas, who thought that the Muslims on the other side, in Myanmar, were treated wrongly, or badly in the hands of the regime as well as Buddhist religious people,” said Ataur Rahman, a professor of political science at Dhaka University. “People travel across, they exchange news and views across the area. Of course you cannot rule out people trying to take political dividend out of it.”