SITTWE, Rakhine State — Nine people have been remanded under unlawful assembly charges for their part in a mob that attacked an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid shipment bound for conflict-torn Maungdaw in Rakhine State capital Sittwe on Wednesday, according to police.
The nine people were being held in Sittwe and have been charged under six different sections of the Penal Code, including sections 143-5 which relate to unlawful assembly and sections 438 and 440 which relate to “mischief,” Police Lt Kyaw Moe of Sittwe’s No. 2 Police Station told The Irrawaddy.
The nine men were arrested on Wednesday night when nearly 300 people gathered and threw petrol bombs at a boat laden with ICRC aid at Set Yoe Kya jetty about 8 p.m.
The crowd was dispersed by some 200 police who fired rubber bullets and tear gas to restore order. The Myanmar Army’s regional commander and his soldiers arrived at the jetty at 11 p.m.
“At first we tried to negotiate [with the mob] but they refused to disperse, and began to ignite petrol bottles” said Lt Kyaw Moe of Wednesday’s trouble.
Sittwe resident Kyaw Thant Lwin told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the clashes had frightened residents and that a lot of unconfirmed reports about the violence had been shared online, but that the situation was calm on Thursday morning.
Another resident told The Irrawaddy that violence flared because the crowd believed the boat contained terrorists.
According to an Information Committee statement, laborers loading the ship on Wednesday afternoon told two men that the boat was carrying ICRC aid after they inquired.
At about 5 p.m., 50 men arrived at the jetty and demanded the boat captain not to leave. After the incident was reported, the district police chief and community Buddhist monk leaders tried to mediate and diffuse the situation but the boat was delayed from leaving and the mob continued to swell.
The 50-ton aid shipment was organized by ICRC’s local supervisor U Naing Lin Wai and included 774 solar panels, 64,071 items of clothing, 1,240 tarpaulins, 1,331 blankets, 1,331 water buckets, 3,000 mosquito nets, feminine hygiene products and kitchenware.