A police officer guides an ethnic Rohingya refugee from Myanmar off a boat
A police officer guides an ethnic Rohingya refugee from Myanmar off a boat (Reuters)

A riot between Burmese fishermen and Rohingya Muslims at a detention centre in Sumatra, Indonesia, was triggered by the rape and sexual assault of three Rohingya women, according to a new police investigation.

Violence erupted in the Belawan detention centre in North Sumatra where 117 Muslim Rohingya refugees and 11 Buddhists accused of illegal fishing were being held together, leaving eight Buddhists dead and 15 Rohingya injured.

The incident was initially blamed on a brawl between a Rohingya cleric and a fisherman about the recent sectarian violence in central Myanmar.

However, a police report said the fight broke out when the Rohingya complained to officers at the centre that the fishermen had raped and abused three Rohingya women.

Reuters reports that one woman was raped on 31 March by three fishermen; another woman, who had finished bathing on April 3, was harassed by two other fishermen and a 20-year-old, who was drying her clothes, was raped by the same number of assailants.

Despite the immediate report by a Rohingya leader, the perpetrators were just "reprimanded and slapped on their cheeks".

A gang of eight Buddhists then retaliated against the Rohingya, starting the scuffle.

Both sides used wooden sticks, knives and iron bars to attack each other. Police managed to quell the violence after three hours.

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.