Ten Accused of Blocking Aid Shipment in Sittwe to Face Trial

By Min Aung Khine 10 October 2017

SITTWE, Rakhine State — Ten men accused of involvement in a violent mob which blocked a Red Cross aid shipment bound for conflict-torn Maungdaw in Rakhine State capital Sittwe last month will be brought to trial on Friday, according to the Township Police Force.

A 300-strong mob gathered late on Sept. 20 at Set Yoe Kya jetty where a boat carrying relief supplies for self-identifying Rohingya Muslims was preparing to travel upriver to Maungdaw, reported Reuters.

The mob—armed with slingshots and petrol bombs—forced the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to unload the aid from the boat and prevented the vessel from leaving, according to Myanmar government’s Information Committee.

Police detained nine people at the scene and three more perpetrators were identified in further investigations. One of them was arrested and two others are still at large, said police lieutenant Kyaw Moe of Sittwe No. 2 Police Station.

“We’ve arrested 10 and declared two others as fugitives,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The 10 detainees are from Set Yoe Kya and Mindra Shik villages on the opposite bank of the river from Sittwe town, and the two fugitives are from Sat Yone Su ward in Sittwe. All of them are casual manual laborers and bricklayers, according to police.

“According to our investigation, they had no motive. It happened mainly because they were drunk. There was no organizer. It was the result of a gathering of drunkards,” said the police lieutenant.

Detainees have been charged with Articles 145 and 438 of Myanmar’s Penal Code, said police.

According to Article 145, anyone who joins or continues in an unlawful assembly, knowing that such unlawful assembly has been commanded in the manner prescribed by law to disperse, shall be punished with up to two years’ imprisonment, or a fine, or both.

Article 438 is about committing or attempting to destroy a vessel by fire or any explosive substance and is punishable by transportation for life, or up to ten years’ imprisonment and fine.

According to Information Committee, an ICRC member was supervising loading of relief supplies onto a vessel in Set Yoe Kya Creek which he hired from a local man around 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 when some locals arrived and complained that those supplies would be sent to terrorists.

Later, crowds gathered and disorder broke out, which was quelled by police using tear gas.

Anti-NGO sentiment has developed in Rakhine State since conflict in 2012, with ethnic Arakanese protesting what they feel is unfair favorable treatment of the self-identifying Rohingya.