176 ethnic Rohingya villages empty after recent Burma violence

A total of 176 ethnic Rohingya villages are now empty after all of their residents fled during recent violence in Rakhine state, Burma's presidential spokesman said.

Zaw Htay said there had been a total of 471 Rohingya villages in three townships.

He said in addition to the 176 that were abandoned, some residents fled from at least 34 other villages.

Rohingya Muslims face widespread persecution in Buddhist-majority Burma, where the recent violence has driven hundreds of thousands to seek refuge overseas.

Zaw Htay did not use the name Rohingya.

Members of the ethnic group are commonly referred to as "Bengalis" by many in Burma who insist they migrated illegally from Bangladesh.

Zaw Htay also said Burma would not allow all people who fled to return.

He said: "We have to verify them. We can only accept them after they are verified."

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