Muslim homes razed in Burma's Rakhine state - report

Refugees in Baw Du Pha refugee camp in Sittwe, Rakhine state. 1 August 2012 Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are living in refugee camps outside of Sittwe

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The largest Muslim area in the Burmese city of Sittwe was razed to the ground in recent communal violence, a UK broadcaster has reported.

A team from the UK's Channel 4 News gained access to Sittwe, which has been off limits to reporters for months.

They filmed an area once home to 10,000 that had been reduced to rubble.

Days of violence in Rakhine state began in late May when a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered by three Muslims. A mob later killed 10 Muslims.

Sectarian clashes spread across the state, with houses of both Buddhists and Muslims being burnt down.

Most Rohingya Muslims have been moved out of Sittwe into temporary camps.

The Burmese government declared a state of emergency following the outbreak of violence and has since prevented foreign media from visiting the region.

Background: Burma unrest

What sparked the violence in June?

The rape and murder of a young Buddhist woman in Rakhine in May set off a chain of deadly religious clashes

Why was a state of emergency declared?

To allow the military to take over administrative control of the region

Who are the Rohingyas?

The UN describes them as a persecuted religious and linguistic minority from western Burma. The Burmese government says they are relatively recent migrants from the Indian sub-continent. Bangladesh already hosts several hundred thousand refugees from Burma and says it cannot take any more

However, the Channel 4 News team filmed the area of Sittwe known as Narzi, which it reported was once home to an estimated 10,000.

Local Rakhine Buddhists were picking through the debris of the houses, which had once been the Rohingya area of the city.

One man told reporters that the Muslims had set fire to their own homes in an attempt to burn down the whole community.

The UNHCR has said that about 80,000 people have been displaced in and around the Sittwe and Maungdaw by the violence.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has said that forces sent to quash the unrest were reported to be targeting Muslims.

She has called for an independent investigation.

There is long-standing tension between Rakhine people, who are Buddhist and make up the majority of the state's population, and Muslims.

Most of these Muslims identify themselves as Rohingya, a group that originated in part of Bengal, now called Bangladesh.

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