Arakan Residents Demand More Security

Burmese troops gather around a fire engine in the Arakan State capital Sittwe. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

The Arakan State capital Sittwe remains gripped by sectarian conflict despite a state of emergency being declared as insufficient security forces have been deployed to contain potential violence, according to local sources.

Khaing Pyi Soe, a spokesperson for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), told The Irrawaddy that many houses belonging to both Arakenese and Rohingya have been burned down all over the city.

More than 700 soldiers and police have been deployed yet dark smoke can be seen coming from numerous fires, he added. Locals are calling for even more security forces to be in place to protect the safety of residents.

“Security forces are only in major locations so Arakanese living in Sittwe’s suburbs want them to be in their areas as well in order to protect them from danger,” said Khaing Pyi Soe.

Information obtained from Sittwe General Hospital indicates that 21 Arakanese and six Rohingyas have died while many others have been injured since the president declared a state of emergency on Sunday night. There have also been seven reported deaths in Maungdaw, while official figures released in state media on Tuesday put the total death toll at 21.

Journalists currently covering the latest situation in Sittwe claim that security forces rushed to Kyaung Gyi, Narzi and Danyawaddy townships and some other urban areas on Tuesday as Rohingyas set fire to houses.

“I saw Rohingyas having their children, who are about 10 years old, set fire to houses. They burned Arakanese houses. They also burned their houses,” a reporter told The Irrawaddy. “There were about 2,000 people in their crowd. The Arakanese have moved to monasteries. I have taken video recordings of these incidents.”

A resident of Kyaung Gyi Township told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that people in his community were in trouble.

“We had to be on alert when they started burning their houses so the fire wouldn’t spread to ours,” said the Kyaung Gyi resident. “We are not safe. We have to keep eyes on them all the time as they may come and harm us anytime. Whenever something like this happens we, the Arakanese, have to run away.”

According to Khaing Pyi Soe, more than 8,500 Arakanese and other ethnic people who became homeless following the recent fires have been given aid by well-wishers and governmental agencies while sheltering in 34 rescue centers in Sittwe.

The Muslim-supported National Democratic Party for Development (NDPD), which has been monitoring the current situation in the mountainous state and collecting data, said that many Rohingyas are victims of the violence—some have been killed, others lost their houses and many have been forced to go into hiding.

Kyaw Khin, a member of the NDPD central committee, told The Irrawaddy that his party has found it difficult to estimate the exact number of homeless Rohingya and still cannot make a list of Muslim victims. The NDPD will continue to collect data, he said.

“Since violence has spread to urban areas in Sittwe, we have moved [Rohingya] women to a safer place,” said Kyaw Khin. “The worst thing is that they don’t have food. They need food but we can’t go out and buy it for them anymore. These people may die of hunger. They are all in the jungle now.”

He added that in some cases government security forces intervened on Monday and Tuesday by firing at Rohingyas.

The Bangladeshi government said on Tuesday that it sent back more than 1,500 Rohingya refugees who were trying to flee the ongoing violence. They were given food and sent back to Burma. Meanwhile, UN Special Advisor on Burma Vijay Nambiar arrived in Sittwe before noon on Wednesday to assess the situation.

A number of Sittwe residents reported to The Irrawaddy that a Muslim group opened fire at government troops, hitting a soldier in the thigh, and later took cover at a mosque in the city’s Aungmingalar quarter. They added that the wounded soldier is currently receiving treatment in Sittwe General Hospital and the Burmese troops did not return fire.

According to the NDPD, Rohingyas live in 14 out of 17 townships in Arakan State apart from Taunggup, Gwa and Ann. Over 90 percent of the population of Buthidaung and Maungdaw are Rohingyas, according to the group.

Dear Readers:The Irrawaddywelcomes your opinions and views on the issue in Arakan State, irrespective of your race, religion or bias. However, we cannot publish and will not tolerate those who use offensive language or racial insults, or those who try to spread propaganda or who incite violence.Please use this forum respectfully.

The Irrawaddy Team

5 Responses to Arakan Residents Demand More Security

  1. What our country need is a non racist law, ensuring all citizens regardless of race and religion to live peacefully. It is human nature to fall in love with opposite sex, so on the border areas of countries people tend to have mixed marriages of different races, hence we have shan-tayote or shan-chinese people on our eastern border and Indo-myanmar or Banglo-myanmar people on our western border.
    Our authorities should stop calling those people ” mixed blood” and denying their human rights to become citizens of our country.

  2. Thein Hnin sorry to say that every country has its own immigration rules.There is no country in the world who give citizenship to everyone who apply. There are certain conditions and requirements to become the citizenship of one country.This is not about racist or not .But that normal in this world. If you know the country , which give citizenship to everyone without conditions or requirements please let me know I really would like to know. 🙂

  3. The so called “Rohingya” issues is the one that the leaders of our country should resolve sooner rather than later. The sooner the issue is resolved the better for the country.The presient or the parliament should take decisive action regarding this “Rohingya” issues.For decades these Rohingyas are manipulating this issues by trying to rewrite the history of Arakan state in western burma through propaganda in various media.The recent violence started (only) when these people showed gross neglect to the rule of law of the country (where they living).
    This is the time the country decides the issues of ROHINGYAS for once and good. We don’t want more dead body or burnt houses.

  4. Amid so many one-sided internatioal news coverage abt current unrest at Arakhan state, the most un-bias written news on what happening at Arakhan site. Thank you, Irwdy.

  5. More Burmese security forces should send to Arakan not include a single Arakanese arms forces. If Arakanese Arms forces exist in the violent areas there can be suspecious from other side. There fair way is that Burmese soldiers should send and control fully with military not with local police.

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