Police Fire on Buddhists on Ramree Island

By Nyein Nyein 30 October 2012

Tensions are rising amongst the Arakanese population of Ramree Island’s Kyauk Ni Maw Village after security forces fire into protesters on Tuesday resulting in one death and one injury.

Thousands of Ramree Island residents, as well as the ethnic Arakanese from nearby Manaung and Taungup townships, gathered in Kyauk Ni Maw to demand extra security and moving Muslims away from Buddhist neighborhoods.

A 55-year-old man was killed while a 42-year-old man was injured when soldiers and police fired on protesters, claim local residents. “The injured man was wounded in his thigh and brought to Ramree Hospital,” said a Buddhist man who asked to remain anonymous.

“The security forces told protesters not to cross the lines where they were standing in front of the Muslim communities,” he said. “We would not enter the Muslims communities. We just call for separating [Muslims] from us as it is no longer possible to stay together in the same community.”

Kyauk Ni Maw was the starting point of the ongoing Arakan State sectarian violence that first erupted in June after a Buddhist girl was allegedly raped and murdered by three Rohingya men. Ten Muslims pilgrims were then beaten to death in Taungup in a revenge attack before an Islamic mob ran riot after Friday prayer services in Maungdaw Township, northern Arakan State, on June 8.

Arakanese protesters called for the relocation of Muslim communities from near the only market in Kyauk Ni Maw. Buddhists complained about having to pass Muslims neighborhoods when they come to trade goods and that their security could not be guaranteed since the communal strife began.

Arakan State spokesman Win Myaing told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that he had not yet received any reports from the area, but added that Arakan State Chief Minister Hla Maung Tin, together with government ministers and police officials, are visiting townships across western Burma. They are currently in Thandwe City, south of Ramree Island, which has a near-equal Muslim and Buddhist population, added Win Myaing.

On Monday, a Burmese military battalion arrived in Kyauk Ni Maw Village after the government decided to deploy more security forces in fragile areas where simmering tensions remain. A total of 51 battalions, more than 5,000 police and 1,000 border security force officers (Nasaka) have been deployed across Arakan State.

According to government figures, 2,950 houses, 14 religious buildings and eight rice mills were razed to the ground during last week’s riots. Eighty-eight persons have been confirmed dead, while 129 have been hospitalized as violence raged across nine townships from Oct. 21 to 27.

More than 40 houses in Ramree Township’s sixth quarter were among those set ablaze, according to the government. Local Buddhists accused Muslims of setting fire to their own houses and then running away. “We had to kill the fire so it does not spread to our houses, which are built next to Muslim houses in the same community,” said an anonymous source.

Most of those displaced by the renewed violence are once again Muslim Rohingyas who are now seeking shelter at displacement camps. United Nations figures indicate that 32,000 people have lost their homes in the latest violence.

Although the vast majority of victims are Rohinyga, several thousand displaced Arakanese are currently seeking shelter in monasteries or at the homes of relatives.

Six out of nine townships—Minbya, Mrauk-U, Myebon, Kyaukphyu, Kyauktaw and Rathedaung—are opening temporary camps for the latest refugees. More than 1,000 displaced Arakanese are currently sheltering at three monasteries in Mrauk-U, around 190 people from 42 torched houses are at temporary camps in Myebon and around 150 are at a camp in Kyaukphyu.

In Minbya Township, where renewed clashes recently broke out, 657 houses in six villages have been burned down. A local police officer said 4,270 displaced Muslims are currently taking shelter at a temporary camp there.