Sittwe Police Arrest 8 and Use Tear Gas to Disperse Mob Blocking Aid Shipment

By Moe Myint 21 September 2017

YANGON — Riot police in Rakhine State capital Sittwe arrested eight men and fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters on Wednesday night as they dispersed a mob preventing an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid shipment from traveling to conflict-torn Maungdaw.

Nearly 300 people gathered and threw petrol bombs at a boat laden with ICRC aid at Set Yoe Kya jetty about 8 p.m. and 200 police men and a firetruck were deployed to maintain order, according to a government Information Committee statement released late Wednesday night.

After members of the crowd fired slingshots at the security forces—causing some minor injuries—police fired rubber bullets and tear gas. The Myanmar Army’s regional commander and his soldiers arrived at the jetty at 11 p.m.

A total of eight people were arrested and an investigation has been opened, according to the statement.

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.

According to the statement, laborers loading the ship on Wednesday afternoon told two men that the boat was carrying ICRC aid after they enquired.

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.