Two Rohingya Detained After Brawl Over Goose in Arakan State

By Moe Myint 1 December 2015

RANGOON — Police in Arakan State’s Buthidaung Township have arrested two Rohingya Muslims accused of assaulting two ethnic Daingnet men in a quarrel stemming from disputed ownership of a goose.

Buthidaung Township police chief Aung Bar Lay confirmed that the two accused were taken into police custody on Friday, one day after the incident, adding that the search was still on for five “Bengalis” who were also allegedly involved in the fight.

The two Daingnet victims were knocked unconscious in the brawl and are receiving medical treatment at the local hospital, according to Aung Bar Lay.

The altercation ensued after a Rohingya Muslim claiming to be the owner of a goose confronted the two Daingnet men, who had taken the waterfowl from a stream in the village of Ngagyitauk and refused to return it to the man claiming proprietorship. A group of about 10 Rohingya men then attacked the alleged goose thieves, and an ethnic Arakanese truck driver who was attempting to mediate the dispute also sustained minor injuries but did not required hospitalization, the Buthidaung police chief said.

Htun Aung Thein, chairman of the Buthidaung Township chapter of the Arakan National Party (ANP), said he had heard that seven “Bengalis” were arrested and that the medical condition of one of the Daingnet men was serious.

“About 60 households are inhabited by ethnic Daingnet living in Ngagyitauk village and near there, what we call Ngagyitauk Kalar village, more than 100 Bengali households have settled,” the local ANP leader told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. “Sometimes things like this happen, but it’s not a big problem.”

Kalar is a derogatory term used to describe individuals of South Asian descent, and Bengali is the official government nomenclature for Arakan State’s Rohingya minority, implying that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh despite many members of the Muslim group having lived in Burma for generations.

Tensions have been recurrent in Buthidaung and neighboring Maungdaw Township since two bouts of violence in 2012 pitting Rohingya against the state’s ethnic Arakanese Buddhists. Communal clashes that year killed more than 100 people and displaced an estimated 140,000, most of whom were Rohingya who remain confined to squalid camps outside the capital Sittwe and elsewhere in the state.

The ethnic Daingnet are classified by the government as a sub-ethnicity of the Arakanese, and are a predominantly Buddhist people.

Regarding last week’s brawl, Aung Bar Lay on Tuesday dismissed any link to religion or the 2012 violence.

“It’s a normal case,” he told The Irrawaddy.