A state official in Burma’s troubled Arakan state has threatened to demolish Muslim schools, homes and mosques — claiming that the structures were built illegally — in a move that could further inflame tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in the country.
The announcement appeared in a state government-affiliated online journal this week, according to a local news site, the Irrawaddy. Citing a state minister, Colonel Htein Lin, the report said thousands of buildings could be subject to removal, including a dozen mosques, 35 schools and more than 2,500 houses in the Muslim-majority townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung.
“It is against the existing rules and regulations, they don’t have the authority to demolish mosques,” NLD central-committee member Win Htein tells TIME.
Arakan state, also known as Rakhine, was the site of deadly riots between Buddhists and Muslims that began in 2012, and tensions between the two communities have remained high in the years since. More than 100 people died in the violence, and about 140,000 others were displaced.
Most of those affected were Rohingya, a Muslim minority that is officially stateless and viewed by many in Burma, officially known as Myanmar, to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. Since the violence, about 100,000 Rohingya have been confined to squalid displacement campswhere they are denied movement, education and health care.