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Chief minister of violence-hit Myanmar state retires and religious affairs minister is fired

YANGON, Myanmar - The chief minister of Myanmar's Rakhine state that has been embroiled in sectarian violence has retired and the country's religious affairs minister has been fired.

An announcement signed by President Thein Sein gave no explanation for Hla Maung Tin's retirement or for the sacking of Hsan Sint.

Several official sources said Hsan Sint is facing an investigation on corruption charges. His removal coincides with the arrest of five Buddhist monks last week after a well-known Buddhist monastery was raided in a late-night operation. The sources would not give their names are they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Thein Sein has pledged to create a clean government since he assumed power in 2011 and has seen a series of cabinet reshuffles though no reasons have been given.

The announcement published in local newspapers Friday said that Hla Maung Tin was permitted to retire, which is a common euphemism for a firing. Saying someone has been fired implies a more serious legal matter.

Rakhine has been caught up in sectarian violence since mid-2012 that has challenged the government and brought international criticism.

Earlier this week, a top U.N. humanitarian official said she witnessed "appalling conditions" and the worst human suffering she has ever seen in camps for stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang told reporters in New York that because of severe restrictions on their freedom of movement both in camps and isolated villages, many Muslims can't rebuild their lives and have "wholly inadequate access to basic services including health, education, water and sanitation."

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million which only recently emerged from a half-century of military rule, considers the Rohingya Muslims to be immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship and related rights, even though many were born to families who arrived in the country generations ago.

Almost all of the 1.3 million Rohingya live in Rakhine state, where sectarian violence in the last two years has killed about 280 people and forced another 140,000 to flee their homes. Most of the victims have been Rohingyas chased down by Buddhist mobs. As a result, most Rohingya are now living in hot, dirty camps for internally displaced people, or IDPs.

Kang, who visited Myanmar this month to assess the humanitarian challenges, said that "in Rakhine, I witnessed a level of human suffering in IDP camps that I have personally never seen before" — and the Muslim camps were the worst.

The Cabinet moves came after the deputy education minister was permitted to retire two days ago. There are 36 ministers and 61 deputy ministers in the Cabinet.

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