A police officer stands guard near migrants from Myanmar at an immigration detention centre in Medan in Indonesia's North Sumatra
Detained migrants from Myanmar in Indonesia\'s North Sumatra (Reuters)

Sectarian violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims leaked out of Myanmar for the first time after a brawl between the two sides broke out in an immigration centre in Indonesia. Eight people - all Buddhists - died and 15 were injured.

Violence erupted in the Belawan detention centre in North Sumatra province where 117 Muslim Rohingya refugees and 11 Buddhists accused of illegal fishing have been held together. Clashes started after a Rohingya cleric confronted a fisherman about the recent sectarian violence in central Myanmar.

The cleric was allegedly attacked by the fisherman, according to detention centre chief Yusuf Umardani, and a group of Muslim detainees rushed to help their fellow countryman.

"The violence took place so fast and was completely unexpected because they had been living peacefully here so far," Umardani said. "Most of the dead suffered severe head injuries. They fought using anything that they could get - rocks, wood, chairs and knives."

Police had subdued the brawl by mid-morning and the injured were taken to hospital. The three surviving fishermen were taken to a different building.

"Our friends were covered in blood," surviving fisherman Win Thike Oo told an Associated Press photographer at the scene. "If we were there at the time, we would also be dead."

The UN refugee agency said: "UNHCR is calling for calm and urging the Indonesian authorities to take action to prevent further violence, including moving individuals into community housing as soon as possible."

Rohingyan asylum-seekers have been making the perilous 2,000km sea crossing to Indonesia to escape the wave of sectarian violence in Myanmar's Western Rakhine state. Hundreds have been killed and more than 100,000 have been displaced in clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya.

In March, groups of Buddhists, some led by monks, attacked a Muslim neighbourhood after a row in a Muslim-owned gold shop. At least 40 people died in the violence that followed and 12,000 were displaced from their homes.

As revealed by IBTimes UK, anti-Muslim clashes might have been triggered by a controversial monk who has led numerous vocal campaigns against Muslims.

Saydaw Wirathu called in a video that emerged on YouTube for a national boycott of Muslim businesses in Myanmar.