RANGOON — A spokesperson for President Thein Sein has said that last week’s fatal shooting of three Rohingya women by police in Arakan State had been provoked by local Muslim villagers because they “attacked authorities who tried to help them.”
On June 4, local authorities ordered a group of Rohingyas living in makeshift bamboo shelters in the village of Parein, Mrauk-U Township, to relocate to another site.
When they protested against the order police opened fire on the unarmed villagers, killing three women and injuring five villagers, according to the UN rapporteur on human rights in Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana. He condemned the incident on Tuesday as a “shocking example” of how police mistreat the Rohingyas “with complete impunity” and called for an investigation.
Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told The Irrawaddy however, that the government rejected the rapporteur’s account of the incident, which he said had been brought on by the villagers.
“He failed to mention [that the] mob refused to move to newly built homes and attacked authorities who tried to help them,” he wrote in an email.
Ye Htut said Quintana had proven to be biased in his assessments of the human rights situation in Burma. “I am not surprised by his statement because he already has prejudice towards the government,” he said.
The UN envoy has repeatedly deplored the government’s handling of the crisis in western Burma’s Arakan State, where Arakanese Buddhists clashed with Rohingyas between June and October 2012. The unrest led to 192 deaths and displaced about 140,000 people, mostly Muslims.
Quintana has accused security forces of carrying out “widespread and systematic” human rights abuses against the Muslim minority, which are not recognized by the government as citizens of Burma.
Myo Thant, a Rohingya politician with the Maungdaw-based Democracy and Human Rights Party, said the unarmed villagers in Mrauk-U Township had protested against the order to leave their village because they feared that they would be confined to a camp and lose their farmland.
Following the shooting, Myo Thant said, police had come to Parein Village to round up 30 men and boys, adding that authorities were planning to charge them with causing hurt to deter a public servant from carrying out his duty.