Burma to investigate Rakhine clashes

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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Burma has set up a commission to investigate recent violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the west of the country, in which dozens died.

The move was announced by President Thein Sein, who earlier rejected UN calls for an independent inquiry.

The clashes between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims also displaced thousands of people.

The UN welcomed the inquiry, saying it could make "important contributions" to restoring peace.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said it could create a "conducive environment for a more inclusive way forward to tackle the underlying causes of the violence, including the condition of the Muslim communities in Rakhine".

Long-standing tension

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

A statement on Thein Sein's website said on Friday the 27-member commission would include representatives from different political parties and also religious organisations.

It said the commission would submit its findings next month.

The 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 in retaliation, though they were unconnected with the earlier incident.

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

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

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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