NEW DELHI • Myanmar has sent hundreds of soldiers to beef up security in the north-western Rakhine state after a recent spate of killings, military sources said yesterday, fuelling fears of yet more violence and instability in the troubled region.
Muslim-majority northern Rakhine was plunged into violence last October when Rohingya Muslim insurgents killed nine police officers, setting off a brutal counter-offensive beset by allegations of rape, killings and torture by government troops.
Two military sources based in Rakhine told Reuters the army had sent troops to the state's north to "help tighten security" after seven Buddhists were found hacked to death in mountains near the town of Maungdaw last week.
The army dispatched about 500 soldiers to several towns near the border with Bangladesh on Thursday, according to one of the military sources.
"We have to increase security operations because the security situation has worsened - some Muslims and Buddhists have been killed by the insurgents," Rakhine State police chief Sein Lwin told Reuters.
The military spokesman and a spokesman for Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi were not available for comment.
Such a build-up raises fears of a fresh wave of violence after last year's operation, in which security forces allegedly shot villagers at random, raped Rohingya women and burned homes. The government rejects the allegations of abuses and has refused to cooperate with a UN fact-finding mission to look into them.
About 1.1 million Rohingya live in Rakhine, but are denied citizenship and face curbs on movement and access to basic services.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh since the early 1990s, with some of them then crossing over a porous border into Hindu-majority India.
India said yesterday it was in talks with Bangladesh and Myanmar about its plan to deport around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims it said are living in the country illegally.
A government spokesman said state governments have been told to form task forces for the purpose. "These things are being discussed at diplomatic level with both Bangladesh and Myanmar," Interior Ministry spokesman K.S. Dhatwalia said.
"More clarity will emerge at an appropriate time."
New Delhi says only around 14,000 of the Rohingya living in India are registered with the UN refugee agency, making the rest illegal and liable to be sent back.