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Myanmar sets up commission to probe clashes between Buddhists, Muslims

By Kocha Olarn, CNN
August 20, 2012 -- Updated 0031 GMT (0831 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The June clashes leave at least 62 people dead in Rakhine
  • Myanmar's president highlights the need to form an internal commission
  • The commission consists of various groups, including activists and entrepreneurs
  • The international community has welcomed the nation's political reforms

(CNN) -- Myanmar has formed an internal commission to investigate the recent sectarian violence that killed dozens in the western part of the country, state media reported.

The June clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine killed at least 62 people and displaced thousands.

President Thein Sein's commission is made up of various groups, including activists, officials from minority parties, entrepreneurs, government leaders and religious leaders, The New Light of Myanmar said Saturday.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded the move.

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"This commission is comprised of a representative cross-section of national figures in the country," Ban said in a statement. "It could make important contributions to restoring peace and harmony in the state and in creating 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."

The international community has welcomed Sein's commitment to introducing political reforms in Myanmar since assuming leadership last year.

Sein has highlighted the need to form an independent commission that does not include foreigners.

Violence between Buddhists and Muslims erupted after police detained three Muslim men in relation to the rape and killing of a Buddhist woman in May. Two of the men were sentenced to death, and a third man committed suicide in detention.

News of the crime may have motivated several hundred people to attack a bus in Rakhine in June, killing 10 Muslims onboard, state media said.

Violence between Buddhists and Muslims spread across the northern part of the state, resulting in the destruction of thousands of homes, according to the government.

The national government declared a state of emergency in Rakhine, bringing in the military to help restore order.

Rakhine is home to the Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority group that says it was persecuted by the Myanmar military during decades of authoritarian rule.

At the height of the violence, hundreds of Rohingyas tried to cross the border into neighboring Bangladesh to flee the sectarian violence.

But Bangladeshi authorities have turned them back, saying they already have too many Rohingya refugees.

The unrest has tested the efforts of Sein's administration to seek reconciliation with Myanmar's different ethnic groups and move the country toward more democratic governance.

CNN's Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.

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