NAYPYIDAW — A Rohingya Muslim village official in Arakan State’s Buthidaung Township was killed by a group of men two days after he was interviewed by journalists on a press trip organized by the Ministry of Information (MOI), according to the local police force.
Hamid Dullah, a 46-year-old assistant administrator of Tinn May village in Buthidaung Township was sleeping at home on Friday night when men entered the house and killed him by slitting his throat.
Hamid Dullah had spoken to the media about military training organized by an armed group in Tinn May village when journalists visited the location on the MOI-sponsored trip on Wednesday.
A total of 18 local and international journalists visited Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships this week on a three-day trip organized by the government’s information team.
Hamid Dullah also informed visiting journalists during the Wednesday interview that he had received death threats online for collaborating with authorities regarding the arrest of 17 locals alleged to have undergone the military training.
Maungdaw district administrator U Ye Htut told the Irrawaddy that those who cooperated with authorities and those who talked to media, diplomats and others were being targeted by what appeared to be an organized network.
In late December last year, a Muslim man named U Shuna Myar was brutally beheaded after he spoke with 13 reporters on a government-sponsored trip to Ngakhura village, Maungdaw Township.
Asked whether security provisions had subsequently been planned or undertaken for interviewees and others on government-sponsored trips in light of the potential for reprisal activities, U Ye Htut maintained that it was “not possible” to provide security for individual interviewees. Police had opened a case into the death of Hamid Dullah, he said.
However, U Ye Htut said that police were providing security to three Rohingya Muslim women in the village of Kya Kaung Taung in Maungdaw Township who told journalists on Thursday that they were raped by Burma Army soldiers during security operations in northern Arakan State in January and later filed cases.
It remained unclear whether the government and others would be reviewing their policies on the organization and conduct of escorted trips by media, diplomats and others after the latest murder.
Meanwhile, U Myint Kyaw of the Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN) urged the government and media organizations to avoid publishing the photos and personal information of interviewees and detainees in the troubled region.
“It is dangerous. Detainees may come to harm when they are released,” he said in relation to the practice by state media of publishing images and details of those arrested in the area.
The government and media needed to be careful to avoid potential harm to news sources, U Myint Kyaw added.
In a separate incident not known to be connected to the recent media visit, police on Saturday said that earlier that day a group of men abducted a village administrator in the village of Thet Kaing Nya and killed two others.
Maungdaw border police’s Brig-Gen Thura San Lwin had previously told media that Rohingya Muslims who accepted National Verification Certificates (NVC) or were granted full citizenship cards for Burma were sometimes threatened by an unknown armed group.
The current NVC process omits holders’ ethnicity and religion, which has led to a rejection of the document by many Rohingya Muslim villagers, who demand this basic recognition.
“Some Muslims receive the NVC secretly and then hide out, away from their village, as they are threatened,” Brig-Gen Thura San Lwin said.
According to immigration officer U Than Shwe, 746,000 Muslims live in Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and Taung Pyo Letwai. About 70,000 ethnic Arakanese live in the area.
Only 4,600 people have accepted the NVC since the project was launched in 2014, according to the official.
Earlier this week a group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, previously named the Faith Movement, or Harakah al-Yaqin, said in a statement that it was carrying out armed resistance in northern Arakan state as ‘self-defense’. The group denied links with any international terrorist group.
Under its previous name, the group took credit for a series of armed attacks on 3 border outposts in northern Arakan State on Oct 9. 2016, according to a report released in December by the International Crisis Group.
The report also said that the group had “apparently killed several informers.”