Govt Forms Committee to Investigate Violence in Arakan State

By Nyein Nyein 7 June 2012

The Burmese government announced on Wednesday that it will form a committee to investigate a recent series of violent incidents in Arakan State that have raised fears of communal strife between Buddhists and Muslims.

According to the state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar, the 12-member committee will “probe into the incidents” that left 10 Muslims dead last Sunday following the rape and murder of an ethnic Arakanese Buddhist woman on May 28, allegedly by a group of Muslim men.

The committee, which will be led by Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Brig-Gen Kyaw Zan Myint,  will also include police officials and commissioners from the national, state and district levels, the newspaper reported on Thursday.

Although the report did not make any specific reference to the incidents to be investigated, there were two separate outbreaks of violence on Sunday linked to the murder-rape case, which occurred in Kyauk Ni Maw, a village in Ramree Township, Arakan State.

The first, the murder of 10 Muslims by a mob who pulled them from their bus in Taunggok Township, took place at about 5 pm on June 3. The second occurred in the state capital Sittwe later in the same day, when police opened fire on protesters who had surrounded a local police station.

According to Aung Mya Kyaw, a member of the state parliament from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, at least a dozen people were injured in the crackdown.

Zaw Aye Maung, the minister for Arakanese ethnic affairs in Rangoon Division, told The Irrawaddy that four of the injured arrived in Rangoon on Wednesday to receive medical treatment. He added that the government would cover their medical costs and that Kyaw Zan Myint, the leader of the newly formed investigation committee, would take care of the matter.

The government’s handling of the tensions became a subject of some controversy earlier in the week after state-run media on Tuesday used the derogatory term “kalar” to refer to Muslims, provoking protests in downtown Rangoon and criticism from activists.

On Wednesday, the state-run newspapers Kyemon and Myanmar Ahlin issued a correction removing the offending term.

Also on Wednesday, National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi held a press conference to  call for calm and to urge people to raise their grievances in accordance with the law.

Respected leaders from both the Arakanese and Muslim communities in Sittwe have also played a role in easing tensions, said Zaw Aye Maung, noting that the Arakan State government also formed a peace committee on Wednesday.

Others, including members of the 88 Generation Students group and various ethnic Arakanese and Muslim groups, have also called for peaceful solutions to the conflict in Arakan State.

According to The New Light of Myanmar, the government committee will compile “the causes of the incidents” and legal actions taken in each case. The findings will be compiled in a report that will be given directly to President Thein Sein by the end of June.