New Curfews Imposed in Arakan State

By Nyein Nyein 9 August 2012

Three more townships in northern Arakan State imposed curfews on Wednesday following fresh clashes earlier this week between Buddhists and Muslims in the strife-torn region, where a total of nine townships are now under lockdown.

The curfews—in Kyauktaw, Minbya and Mrauk-Oo townships—are in response to a series of incidents in Kyauktaw on Aug. 5-6 that left property destroyed and an unspecified number of people dead.

“The curfews were ordered to prevent any further violence in the area after the clashes in Kyauktaw,” said Myo Thant, a member of a special media team set up by the state government in the wake of violence that first broke out in early June.

According to Thar Kyaw, a member of the state legislature, at least 300 homes owned by both ethnic Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims were destroyed by fire after riots broke out on Aug. 5 in five villages—Apauk Wa, Shwe Hlaing, Gut Pi Taung, Ywar Nyar and Taung Pauk.

The situation in the area is now “stable,” he told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

Local residents in the affected townships said the curfew is from 7 pm to 5 am in Kyauktaw, and from 10 pm to 4 am in the other two townships.

“Township authorities have also ordered people to hand over any knives, slingshots and jinglees in their possession,” said Thar Kyaw, who is a resident of Minbya. Jinglees are sharpened bicycle spokes that are used as arrows, often with poison applied to their tips.

Residents of the three townships said that schools and shops are open as usual, but there is a heavy security presence in the streets. Around five or six policemen or soldiers have been assigned to guard each school and Rohingya village in the area, said residents.

In the predominantly Muslim townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung, however, schools have been  closed since the violence began in early June and markets are allowed to open only in the mornings. Sources in the area say that security has been tightened since yesterday amid fears of bomb attacks.

In Mrauk Oo, local resident Maung Than said the situation appears to be stable, despite a relatively minor confrontation on Wednesday between Arakanese and Rohingyas in a village about 6 km from the town.

Residents of Kyauktaw said that this week’s violence was much worse than the clashes in the area two months ago. At that time, several houses were burned down, but no casualties were reported.

This time, an unknown number of people were killed. “We’re still in the process of counting and identifying the dead,” said Myo Thant.

Maung Maung, a resident of Kyauktaw, said the renewed violence stemmed from two recent attacks on Arakanese-owned properties.

On Aug. 2, which marked the beginning of the Buddhist lent period, a group of Rohingyas allegedly destroyed a bus station in Kyauktaw, and on Sunday, a small rice mill in the village of Taung Pauk was allegedly burnt down and looted by a Rohingya mob.

A state-wide state of emergency was declared after the strife started in Maungdaw in June 8 and curfews have been in place in Sittwe, Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Kyaukphyu, Thandwe and Ramree townships since June 10.