Fresh Clashes Break Out in Arakan State

By Lawi Weng 7 August 2012

Clashes between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims resume in Arakan State’s Kyauktaw Township on Monday despite the Burmese government calling the situation in western Burma “stable.”

Violence broke out when a group of Arakanese from Ywar Nyar Village found guns on a boat at Gut Pi Taung Rohingya Village on Monday, according to Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) Chairman Maung Maung.

Tension were already high after a small Buddhist-owned rice factory in Taung Pauk Village was allegedly burnt down and looted by a group of Rohingyas at 4 am that same day.

Win Myaint, a spokesperson for the Arakan State government, told The Irrawaddy that he heard two people were wounded in the Kyauktaw clashes but he could not provide more information as his team was still travelling to the area to investigate.

Disorder then apparently spread out from Kyauktaw with houses belonging to both Arakanese and Rohingyas burned down in Apauk Wa, Shwe Haling, Gut Pi Taung and Ywar Nyar villages.

Around 30 houses in Apauk Wa have been burned down in the latest violence, according to Maung Maung. The Irrawaddy could not independently verify the level of destruction or number of casualties involved at the time of publication.

Tensions have slowly been rising since last Thursday, the full moon day of Buddhist Lent, when a group of Rohingyas allegedly destroyed an Arakanese-owned bus station in Kyauktaw.

Aung Than Tin, the Minister for Social Welfare Relief and Resettlement in Arakan State, said that some Rohingyas were provoking trouble by throwing stones at cars passing their houses and accosting the drivers.

The international community, especially Islamic countries, has condemned the Burmese government for perceived human right abuses while its security forces attempted to tackle the sectarian strife.

French Deputy Foreign Minister Vincent Floreani called on Burma to find a peaceful solution to the Arakan State conflict and expressed concern regarding reports of a mounting humanitarian crisis.

“We call on the Burmese authorities to protect all civilian populations, without discrimination, and to investigate possible abuses,” he said in a statement on Monday. Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will travel to Burma on Thursday to meet with President Thein Sein’s government and discuss how to provide aid to the displaced.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International recently reported that government troops shot Muslims during the conflict, which first erupted at the end of May.

UN human rights envoy for Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana said during a press conference in Rangoon at the weekend that it was a “matter of urgency” to set up an independent and credible investigation into allegations of abuse.

Ko Ko Gyi, a leader of the 88 Generation Students group, said that he supported Quintana’s suggestion but that any investigation must fairly represent the assertions of both Arakanese and Rohingyas.

“We found during our trip to Arakan State that local Arakanese aid groups put up signboards saying ‘Unwelcome UN and NGOs Aid’ in front of their refugee camps,” said Ko Ko Gyi. “This will continue to happen if [the UN] treats local people unequally.”