April 5, 2013 / 8:35 AM / 6 years ago

Myanmar Buddhist, Muslim refugees clash in Indonesia, eight dead

A police officer stands guard near illegal migrants from Myanmar at an immigration detention centre in Medan in Indonesia's North Sumatra province April 5, 2013. Eight illegal migrants were killed after a brawl between Buddhist and Muslim asylum seekers from Myanmar, a police official said on Friday. REUTERS/Y.T Haryono

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Muslim and Buddhist refugees from Myanmar clashed at a refugee camp in Indonesia on Friday in a riot in which eight people were killed and 15 were wounded, media reported.

Rioters used wooden sticks, knives and iron bars to attack each other during a two-hour clash at an immigration center in Sumatra island, media said, quoting police. More than 20 Myanmar nationals were arrested.

The riot broke out after an argument over sectarian violence in Myanmar between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims.

At least 43 people were killed and 13,000 people were left homeless in days of violence last month.

That followed two eruptions of violence last year in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, which officially killed 110 people and displaced 120,000, most of them stateless Rohingya Muslims.

The U.N. refugee agency called on Indonesian authorities to prevent more bloodshed.

“UNHCR is calling for calm among the groups and urging the Indonesian authorities to take action to prevent further violence,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement.

Thousands of Rohingyas flee from Myanmar each year on rickety boats seeking refuge and jobs in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, but the number has swelled since unrest last year. Indonesia is also a common transit point for people seeking asylum in Australia.

An estimated 800,000 Rohingyas live in Myanmar but are officially stateless. The Myanmar government denies them citizenship, regarding them as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. But Bangladesh does not recognize them as citizens.

Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Robert Birsel

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