Thousand Interrogated for Arakan Strife Role

By Nyein Nyein 1 November 2012

More than 1,000 people are being detained for questioning regarding the recent sectarian conflict in Arakan (Rakhine) State which so far has claimed at least 89 lives, according to President’s Office Director Zaw Htay.

The government announced on Wednesday that there is evidence of groups and individuals behind the communal violence in western Burma and action would be taken against those found guilty of instigating the unrest.

Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that those responsible would be exposed in due course, but declined to elaborate exactly when that would be. “We will announce the facts when the time comes,” he said. “We have not set any date for how long the investigation will take and when the results will be released.”

The government statement said that the renewed wave of unrest threatened national security as it “showed signs of evolving into armed conflict.” A total of 180 percussion-lock firearms were seized during the strife, which began on Oct. 21 and resulted in 89 deaths, 136 wounded, 5,351 houses burnt down and 32,231 people left homeless, according to official figures.

In contrast, local people said that many deaths and injuries were caused by police and soldiers shooting into crowds.

Meanwhile, the state media ordered “saboteurs” to hand over “swords, bayonets and arms” to local security personnel within three days. Otherwise, the Arakan State Police Force will take legal action against transgressors under section 4 (d) of the Arms Act (1878), which prohibits holding “guns, bayonets, swords, daggers, spears, bows and arrows, arms and things related to arms.”

Naypyidaw has formed several investigation committees regarding the ongoing conflict in Arakan State since violence first flared in June, but no official report has been published so far. The government announcement also accused political parties, ceasefire groups and local and foreign organizations of encouraging local people “to commit mob threats, terrorist attacks and violence and arson attacks.”

Phay Than, a Lower House MP for the Rakhines Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), said the government’s accusation that ethnic parties are behind the violence was nothing new as the former military regime would often blame social unrest on minority groups.

“Our parties did not instigate the conflicts in Rakhine, we are even cooperating with the government to solve the problem,” he said. “We want the investigation in accordance with the law and hope that the government will provide peace and stability in the region.”

“I urge the government to let Muslims travel. They should not be locked only in Arakan State, but should be allowed to travel within the whole of Burma in accordance with the 1982 citizenship law,” added Phay Than.

“Similarly, the conflict will be reduced if the authorities act in accordance with the law regarding illegal immigrants.”

Although the government announcement did not specifically name any party or group, the Arakan Liberation Party is an organization which has recently signed a ceasefire agreement with Naypyidaw.

Political parties present in Arakan State include: the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, RNDP, National Unity Party, Rakhine State National Force of Myanmar, Mro National Party, Kaman National Progressive Party, Khami National Development Party, Mro or Khami National Solidarity Organization, which were registered in 2010, and Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), re-registered in 2012.

The ALD, which came in third place during the annulled 1990 general election, also issued a statement last Thursday saying that foreign groups masterminded the recent conflict but did provide any names.