Police in Arakan State’s Kyauktaw Township said they have discovered the lifeless body of a five-year-old girl in a paddy field near the village of Apaukaw on Tuesday morning. They suspect that the girl was murdered.
Aung Myint Oo, chief of Kyauktaw Township police station, told The Irrawaddy that the girl, named Nge Nge, had died after suffering serious wounds to her head.
The girl came from a family in the Arakanese Buddhist village of Kyar Nyo Pyin village and was found in a paddy field of nearby Apaukaw village, he said, adding that she lived with her grandparents as her parents were migrant laborers in Thailand.
Aung Myint Oo said police were investigating the case and the reasons for the murder were unknown, adding, “We do not hear of any dispute of her family with the neighbors.”
The gruesome murder of the girl raises concerns over a flare-up of violence in strife-torn Arakan State, where tensions between Muslim and Buddhist villages remain high after last year’s deadly inter-communal clashes.
In the past, accusations of rape and murder of Buddhist women by Muslim men have led to mob attacks on the Muslim minority in Arakan and other parts of Burma.
A villager in Apaukwa told The Irrawaddy that the girl had disappeared on Monday night after going to a village shop to buy some snacks. The villager, who declined to be named, said local Arakanese residents already believed that the girl was raped by a Muslim man.
Among Burmese-language users of social media network Facebook, rumors of the murder spread quickly on Tuesday, as did premature accusations that a Muslim man had been responsible.
Aung Myint Oo said police investigations had just begun and it was too early to conclude whether the young girl had been raped. “We cannot confirm it [the rape allegation], and we are awaiting a medical report from the local hospital,” he said. “We don’t know who the murderer is, but we are investigating it urgently.”
Asked whether the incident could give rise to inter-communal violence in Kyauktaw Township, the officer said, “The situation here is normal.”
Soe Nyein, an Arakan State lawmaker representing Kyauktaw Township said, “It is sad and true that the girl was murdered, but we do not know yet the exact reasons for killing such a little girl.”
Two waves of deadly inter-communal violence between Arakanese Buddhist and Rohingya Muslims broke out in June and October last year, leading to the deaths of 192 people. About 140,000 people, mostly Muslims, were displaced by the violence.
The first eruption of violence occurred in southern Arakan State’s Taunggop Township, where a Buddhist mob attacked a bus of Muslim pilgrims in order to avenge the supposed rape and murder of teenage Buddhist girl by a Muslim man.
Kyauktaw Township was affected by the second outbreak of violence in October.