Reprisals trigger another Rohingya exodus after clashes in Rakhine kill more than 20

Clashes erupt over Myanmar government's decision to pull down illegally built mosques.

Myanmar Rohingya crisis
Migrants collect rainwater at a temporary refugee camp near Kanyin Chaung jetty, in Myanmar June 4, 2015. Soe Zeya Tun: This group of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants were rescued from a boat carrying 734 people off Myanmar's southern coast. Reuters

More than 20 people have died in clashes in Myanmar's restive Rakhine state, which is home to the Rohingya Muslims.

Armed militants raided three border posts, killing nine border officers on Sunday. Eight assailants were killed in the counter attack by the troops, Radiao free Asia reported. Clashes again on Monday and Tuesday resulted in more casualties on both sides, local news outlet The Irrawaddy said.

State media reports had earlier said only four soldiers were killed. The militant attacks set off searches of homes of Muslim residents near the border with Bangladesh. The raids happened in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships teeming with the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority people.

The state media said the government has sent a mission to the turbulent Rakhine region. Officials said two of the captured attackers revealed that they received help from the local Muslims and that the attack was in the works for three months.

Plan to demolish mosques

RFA said the motive of the attack was the Myanmar government's decision to pull down illegally built mosques and other religious buildings in the townships.

Senior military officers said agencies in Myanmar and Bangladesh are on the lookout for the insurgents who attacked border stations. Military helicopters and personnel have been deployed in the area, Brigadier Gen. Hla Mying Soe said.

According to Residents who spoke to RFA, a police search on Monday in a Muslim quarter in Maungdaw killed four people. But Rohingya outfits say government soldiers had killed seven unarmed residents, Irrawaddy said.

While authorities in Rakhine state say the Muslim attackers had links with the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), Bangladesh has disowned that theory. The Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) said no members of the RSO or other extremist groups were operating from within the country.

Myanmar Information Minister Pe Myint said the government is acting on the turbulence with urgency. "Rakhine state's problem is Myanmar's problem ... We aren't dealing with this only as Rakhine's problem, especially because the Rakhine problem is related to some neighboring countries and the international community," the minister said.

In 2012, widespread sectarian violence had killed more than 200 people and displaced tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims.

'Illegal immigrants from Bangladesh'

Myanmar's Rohingya crisis has remained unsolved for decades despite international rights agencies raising voice against their suppression in a land where they have lived for generations.

The Buddhist nationalists in Myanamr call Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh while rights organisations call them one of the world's most persecuted peoples. The 1.1 million stateless Rohingya people in Myanmar say they belong there as their predecessors have lived in the country for generations. Thousands of Rohingya people live in refugee camps, in deplorable conditions.

The European Union has called for fair investigation into the clashes. "In the meantime, we call on all parties to act responsibly, exercise restraint and let the investigation run its course ... The EU stands with Myanmar in these difficult moments," a statement said.