Muslim village-head killed in Rakhine's Maungdaw District

By Moe Myint 7 December 2017

YANGON – A Muslim village headman, Shaw Feik Amen, from Rakhine State’s southern Maungdaw Township, was shot dead in his house by unidentified armed men on Tuesday night, a border police officer confirmed on Thursday.

Police Major Aung Win, citing testimonies of witnesses, said a group of residents from the same village of Du Nyaung Pin Gyee had allegedly burst into the victim’s home to attack Shaw Feik Amen with guns and swords. The police officer, however, declined to provide the names of the suspects.

Du Nyaung Pin Gyee village is located about five kilometers from downtown Maungdaw and consists of more than 1,000 households. After the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), under its former name, Harakah al-Yaqeen (Faith Movement), attacked several dozen police border outposts in the surrounding area in late August, the majority of its residents fled to neighboring Bangladesh. However, some, including Shaw Feik Amen, chose to remain.

A primary school teacher, U Mg Tun, who lives in Kin Chaung village, not far from Du Nyaung Pin Gyee, told The Irrawaddy over the phone that he had heard some of the attackers crossed the river on a schooner from Bangladesh in order to kill the village administrative official for collaborating with the government.

Police Major Aung Win remarked that some Du Nyaung Pin Gyee residents had also come to a similar speculative conclusion but it was too soon to make an official statement as the case was still in the investigative stage.

U Mg Tun said Du Nyaung Pin Gyee village was mostly left alone during the Myanmar army’s clearance operations and only a few houses were torched. Several hundred Muslims villagers had continued to live there despite the widespread armed clashes that had erupted across Maungdaw district following the ARSA raids. Moreover, nearly 700 villagers from Buthidaung Township had also temporarily sought shelter there.

During a government-sponsored diplomatic tour to Maungdaw Township in early October, which The Irrawaddy was also invited to attend — some Hindu and Arakanese villagers told the foreign envoys that residents had been warned by an unidentified group — believed to be ARSA members or supporters — to leave the village or they would be killed in the next round of attacks.

The threats came after Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called on the international community to seek the full story of the conflict-torn region as many Muslim villages continued to live in peaceful conditions.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has delivered diplomatic briefings and televised speeches twice in recent months calling on Muslim religious leaders to participate in the government’s reconciliation effort in Rakhine State as well as to convince Muslims to apply for the National Verification Card (NVC).

On Nov. 27, the All Myanmar Moulvi (Ulama Al Haqe) Organization released a statement encouraging Muslims who do not possess any kind of official documents such as associated or naturalized citizenship papers or a “white card” to apply for the NVC.

The group’s statement urged Muslims who live in Myanmar to hold at least one identity card issued by the authorities in line with existing laws.

Kyaw Soe, Ulama Al Haqe’s secretary-general, said that the statement was directed at the entire Muslim population of Myanmar rather than just the Rohingya people in Rakhine State and they purposefully stressed the effort was being carried out in the national and public interest. He assumed that many Muslims could be living in Myanmar without any identity papers as they are unfamiliar with government procedures on applying for them.

“I can guarantee that our statement emphasized the interest of the public as well as the government,” Kyaw Soe said.

However, the prospect of dealings with the government remains fraught with fear for many Muslims. Forty-eight Muslims were brutally beheaded by a suspected militant group between October 2016 and August 2017 and a further 20 went missing after collaborating with the government.

In response to a question on whether the Ulama Al Haqe’s effort could be effective on the ground as many people were killed for assisting government officials, Kyaw Soe said that although the group didn’t know the exact perpetrators of the crimes, his organization was adamantly opposed to the violent conduct of ARSA.

“We don’t accept ARSA. All these things happened after they started the problem,” he said of the unrest, which has resulted in more than 620,000 Muslim refugees fleeing to Bangladesh.

He added that if government officials invite his organization to help, they could explain details of the NVC application process to Muslims in local areas.