RANGOON — More than 20 Burmese workers have been detained and are under investigation after a clash with Chinese men at a work site of the Burma-China oil pipeline in the country’s western Arakan State, according to police.
A police officer in the costal state’s Ann Township told The Irrawaddy that some buildings were destroyed and set on fire following a dispute on Jan. 26 between Burmese and Chinese employees working at a pipeline transit camp located in the township.
“We are interrogating over 20 people who we have detained for a temporary period,” said the officer, who asked to remain anonymous. “I still can’t say anything in detail.”
State-owned newspapers on Wednesday reported the incident, saying that Burmese and Chinese workers living in the same house fought after Chinese workers poured water from an upstairs window and got their Burmese colleagues wet. Other reports have said the Burmese workers believed the Chinese had urinated on them.
State media said the angered Burmese workers threw stones at the house and burnt down a warehouse.
The government newspapers also stated that the next day, Jan. 27, Burmese employees set fire to an oil storage building and another two-story building, and that those who were involved in the arson had escaped.
Thwe Thwe Soe, an Ann resident, told The Irrawaddy what she was informed that Chinese workers often pour water and thrown garbage from upstairs.
“Those who live downstairs are ethnic Chin people from Magwe Division. They are very honest. I think they were just patient with what Chinese workers were doing, maybe because it was difficult for them to move to another job. But now, they could no longer tolerate it, and their feelings exploded, which led to these actions,” she said.
The Ann resident also expressed her opinion that it was not fair to detain Burmese alone for investigation.
“It is unjust that the Chinese are the ones who started the problem but none of them got arrested,” said Thwe Thwe Soe.
The officer from the Ann Township Police Station said one Chinese was among detainees being interrogated for the weekend incident.
Currently, about 80 Chinese and 150 Burmese are working in a camp located 22 miles [35 kilometers] away from the urban area of Ann Township. Most of the Burmese workers are ethnic Chin.
The oil pipeline between Burma and China stretches between Maday Island in Arakan’s Kyaukphyu Township and Yunnun Province in China. It goes through Magwe and Mandalay divisions, and Shan State.