Attack in Sittwe Raises Tensions in Arakan State

Buddhists gather at Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon to pray for an end to the violence in Arakan State. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Tensions in Arakan State continue to climb after a fresh outbreak of violence on Sunday left five people injured, despite a growing security presence in the state following attacks on Buddhist villages by Muslim mobs on Friday.

The latest incident took place on Sunday morning in Sittwe, the state capital, raising concerns that the wave of violence appears to be spreading. Friday’s attacks, which left seven people dead, targeted 22 Buddhist villages in two predominantly Muslim townships near the Bangladesh border.

An official at the hospital in Sittwe where the victims of today’s attacks are being treated told The Irrawaddy that all five are ethnic Arakanese. He added that one of the injured men is in serious condition.

As tensions continue to rise, more local authorities are imposing curfews in their areas in an effort to bring the situation under control. In addition to Maungdaw and Buthidaung, where Friday’s attacks took place, four other townships—Sittwe, Thandwe, Kyaukpyu, and Ramree—are now under a 6 pm to 6 am curfew. Gatherings of more than five people are also forbidden.

According to residents of Sittwe, several houses were burned down after hundreds of Muslims attempted to enter the Buddhist neighborhood of Min Kan this morning. After an initial confrontation with local residents, the mob was dispersed when security forces arrived on the scene and fired into the air.

“The is still smoke in the air in Min Kan after the houses there were burned down,” said one local resident. “Some people from around this area have abandoned their houses to take refuge at Buddhist monasteries,” he added.

Meanwhile, leaders of the 88 Generation Students group have spoken out on the situation in Arakan State, making statements on the sensitive issue of the status of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group living in the state whose status in Burma is hotly disputed.

“We have not said anything about this for a long time, but now we have to express our views on the Rohingya,” said Ko Ko Gyi, a prominent leader of the group of former student activists.

“The Rohingya are not a Burmese ethnic group. The root cause of the violence in Buthidaung and Maungdaw comes from across the border and foreign countries,” he said, adding that countries that criticize Burma for its refusal to recognize the Rohingya should respect its sovereignty.

Another 88 Generation leader, Mya Aye, who is also a Muslim, concurred that the source of the tension  was “from the other country”—an apparent reference to Bangladesh, where tens of thousands of Rohingya live as refugees.

Insisting that this was not a religious issue, Mya Aye condemned those who carried out Friday’s attacks, saying that they are the majority in the areas where the violence occurred.

“I want to ask the government to provide security to vulnerable people and take action against those who created anarchy,” he said.

Tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Arakan State have been growing since last Sunday, when 10 Muslims were dragged from a bus and beaten to death, in an apparent reprisal for the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman, allegedly by three Muslim men, late last month.

The situation in the state has also become a concern in other parts of the country. Last week, protests were held in Rangoon over the murder of the Muslims, and political leaders, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, called for calm.

In response to the latest violence, around 1,000 Arakanese gathered at Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma’s most famous Buddhist shrine, to pray for an end to the violence.

6 Responses to Attack in Sittwe Raises Tensions in Arakan State

  1. As I mentioned in recent comment, all areas in Rakhine state should be placed under martial law or curfew to save lives of their
    people. This problem should never be turned out this ugly way if the people and the authority did their jobs properly.
    Now its happened and we have no choice but just to take the shelter from the forces.
    And the authority needs to enforce to settle the issues of immigrants and to rectify the persons involved in the clashes from muslim group are from the immigrants or Rakhine Muslim.
    we pray and wish all the best for Myanmar.

  2. 88 generation does not know Arakan problem. Arakan problem is created problem. There is source of root of cause. Uptill 1958, before the split of AFPFL there were no issue regarding Rohingya in Arakan. Rohingya issue was created by U Nu, the then Prime Minister of Burma and many of Rakhine Mugs from Bangladeshi were made settlement near Kandaw gyi of Sitwe by Arakan National Unity Party ( Ra-Ta-Nya Party ). So Banhgladeshi Rakhine and native Muslims became hatrate within the society. To-day Arakan become victim of politicians both Arakan Ultra Nationalist and divide and rule policy of U Nu’s government. Now it is happening is not at all social and religious problem, it is problem of conspiracy of the past and present.

  3. Tensions between muslims and buddhists find their roots way back in time.

    However, i think it’s not a matter of religion, but a matter of xenophobia and nationalism. Rakhiners hate Bamars as much as they hate muslims. The only difference is that Bamars are not an easy target minority.

    Let’s face it: If there were NO muslims in rakhine state, we would have the same violence and issues between Rakhiners and Bamars.

    Any religion is a farce, just like nationalism and xenophobia. The only way to understand this is through PROPER EDUCATION and not a simplistic brainwash in the name of a supreme being. The majority of people in Myanmar – including the majority of buddhist monks and muslim imams – have no education. They cannot deal with complex matters. They cannot deal with diversity. They cannot deal with criticism. These people are a bad example for the even LESS educated common man.

    In stead of putting their faith in the hands of a supreme being and pray in Shwedagon or any mosque, people should better focuss on priorities: ie. kicking out the rulers that have been oppressing them (**ALL OF THEM**), claiming back the billions of $$$$ on foreign banks and set up a proper education system in order to understand eachother. The latter will teach them that all people are equal and that there is only one race: The Human Race.

    I can understand that my opinion about religion might opset people on this forum. It is not my intention to offend these people. Religion can do great things, unfortunately people tend to f#ck up all the time. History is my witness.

  4. No race is above other race. But when someone is at another house as
    visitor, he should act appropriately. Arakan land is home of Arakan people.Not of Muslim or Rhohingya( Have someone heard this word before).
    Arakan people are to their people and their land. They will die for it.
    This is what everybody does.Even animals defend and protect their land and community from invaders.This is natural.
    Of course, Arakan can share their land to someone who is nice to them.
    Not a rapist.Not someone who marries several women and has decades of
    children.And the population of these people becomes apparently a threat to Arakan people. Everybody knows that this kind of problem calls for restraints and wisdom. But now, Arakan are in grave danger. I call all Arakan to remain active and watchful.

  5. ’uslims in Arakan want to create Kashmir like situation in Arakan by driving out the ehtnic buddhists and by creating 100% muslim inhabitate areas. These infiltrator muslims want the Rakhaines to be refugees fin their own countries like Kashmiri Brahmins.

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