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Myanmar orders surrender of weapons to stem ethnic violence in western state

Authorities have ordered people in strife-torn western Myanmar to surrender guns, swords and other weapons to the police within three days or face legal action.

The announcement Thursday in the state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper said that some groups of people in Rakhine state had used swords and firearms during recent deadly confrontations between the Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities.

On Wednesday, the government said it had evidence that certain individuals and organizations had instigated the violence. It said 89 people were killed, 136 were injured and more than 32,000 made homeless when more than 5,000 houses were burned down from Oct. 21-30. It did not report any new clashes.

The Thursday announcement from the office of President Thein Sein said 180 homemade firearms had been seized, and the makers of the weapons and their parts detained.

"In order to resolve the conflict peacefully, the authorities ordered people to hand over guns, bayonets, swords, daggers, spikes and all kinds of weapons to the nearest police station as quickly as possible between Oct. 31 and Nov. 3," Myanma Ahlin reported.

Tensions have simmered in western Myanmar since clashes first broke out in June after a Rakhine woman was allegedly raped and murdered by three Muslim men. About 75,000 people who lost homes or fled those clashes still live in camps for the internally displaced. The total number of displaced now exceeds 100,000, primarily from the Rohingya community.

Many displaced Rohingya, at least hundreds, are also thought to be trying to flee by boat to neighboring Bangladesh, which tries to keep them out and houses previous refugees in camps. Many try to use Bangladesh as a springboard for dangerous sea voyages in an effort to emigrate illegally to countries such as Malaysia and Australia.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a statement Thursday expressing dismay at reports that a boat sank Tuesday off the coast of Bangladesh with an estimated 130 people on board, possibly including refugees from Rakhine.

Three U.N. human rights experts on Wednesday called on the government "to urgently address the underlying causes of the tension and conflict between the Buddhists and Muslim communities in the region," according to a U.N. statement.

U.N. human rights special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana, independent expert on minority issues Rita Izsak and special rapporteur on human rights of internally displaced persons Chaloka Beyani voiced "their deep concern over continuing inter-communal violence in Rakhine state" and have called on the government to end violence and protect vulnerable communities there.