Two Rohingya Muslims were killed and six were injured, including two minors, after government security forces opened fire on displaced Muslims in a camp in Arakan State’s Pauktaw Township on Thursday, the UN said.
An Arakan official claimed that the crowd had been shot at because they “attacked” the armed officers.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement on Friday that the incident had reportedly been sparked by a disagreement between displaced Rohingyas and local Muslim villagers, who had come to Kyein Ni Pyin camp to construct temporary shelters.
UNHCR said the two groups had a poor relationship and false rumors that the displaced Rohingyas would be isolated at another site led to an argument. Security forces intervened and took away a camp leader.
“When some of the displaced gathered at a nearby military post asking that the leader be handed over, gunfire was used by the authorities to disperse the crowd, resulting in the fatalities and wounding,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said.
He added that UNHCR staff arrived shortly after to treat the wounded. The agency is calling for investigation into the deadly shooting at the camp, which houses some 4,400 Rohingyas who were displaced by last year’s inter-communal violence.
Arakan State spokesperson Myo Thant’s account of events differed from the UNHCR statement as he claimed that the shooting had been provoked by the Rohingyas.
“The incident initially broke out between the workers and displaced in Kyein Ni Pyin IDP camp following a dispute over payments,” he said. “Security forces who tried to intervene in the dispute were attacked by a group of displaced people, and the security forces shot to disperse the crowd.”
Myo Thant said one person died on the scene, while another succumbed to his injuries on Friday.
It is unclear if the security forces fired any warning shots before taking aim at the Rohingyas.
A man called Lalu, one of the 35 workers who had become embroiled in the argument at the camp, also blamed the incident on the displaced Rohingyas.
“They threw stones at us and held knives and sticks, and their group was big,” he claimed, adding that workers and officers “had no place to run as there was only a fence behind us, so the authorities shot into the crowd to disperse them.”
The incident is the second fatal shooting in a camp for displaced Rohingyas this month, after policemen shot dead three Muslim women in Parein village, Mrauk-U Township, on June 4.
The women had been among a group of unarmed Muslim villagers who had protested against a government order to move to another site, according to UN rapporteur on human rights in Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana.
He condemned the incident at the time as “another shocking example” of “widespread and systematic” human rights abuses by security forces against the Muslim minority, which are not recognized by the government as citizens of Burma.
The President’s Office has dismissed the allegations and claimed the women had been shot dead because “they attacked authorities.”
International human rights groups and the UN rights envoy have repeatedly deplored the government’s handling of the crisis in western Burma, where Arakanese Buddhists clashed with Rohingyas between June and October 2012. The unrest led to 192 deaths and displaced about 140,000 people, mostly Muslims.