Burma’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) said on Thursday that it will not gloss over the recent violent incidents in western Arakan State.
“We can’t accept the incidents both legally and socially. Those who committed crimes must have action taken accordingly, no matter if they are Muslims or Burmans,” said the USDP General Secretary Htay Oo. “This problem must not be allowed to grow further.”
Htay Oo told Aung Zaw, the editor of The Irrawaddy, during a meeting at the USDP headquarters in the capital Naypyidaw on Thursday, that local authorities must quickly take action against those involved to preserve the rule of law.
On May 28, an ethnic Arakanese woman was allegedly raped and killed by three Muslim men in Kyauk Ni Maw, a village in Ramree Township, Arakan State. Subsequently 10 Muslims were murdered by a mob on June 3 after being pulled from a bus in Taunggok Township. Two days later, a group of Muslims staged a protest in Rangoon calling for legal action in both cases.
Regarding religious freedom in Burma, Htay Oo said individuals should have the right to follow whatever faith they wish since the country is diverse with various ethnic groups including Muslims and the Chinese.
He also commented on the Rohingya issue by saying that there should not be any stateless citizens in any country. A careful verification process should be used with those found to have lived in Burma for a long time recognized as citizens, he said.
“It is not good if those who are eligible to become citizens lose their rights,” said Htay Oo. “We should be brave enough to recognize them as Burmese citizens after careful verification.”
The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority living mostly in Arakan State where they are denied Burmese citizenship and subjected to various forms of discrimination.
In addition, Htay Oo said that the USDP has been trying to resolve power shortages through a long-term plan. Recent peaceful protests calling for the basic right of electricity offered a good way to let the government know what people desire, but demonstrations must not have any negative consequences, he added.
Resource-rich Burma suffers rationed electricity and constant blackouts because energy from hydropower plants and natural gas reserves is sold to neighboring China and Thailand instead of being used domestically, claim activists.
“We sell [power] because we need money for education, health and the construction of roads and bridges for our people,” explained Htay Oo.
On June 6, the Burmese government announced the formation of a committee that will investigate the violent incidents in Arakan State. According to state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar, the 12-member committee will compile “the causes of the incidents” and legal action taken in each case. The findings will be compiled in a report and presented directly to President Thein Sein by the end of June.