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Burmese President Thein Sein has appointed a 10-person investigation commission to determine the “real cause” of violent incidents in the village of Duchira Dan in Maungdaw Township last month.
Although the commission is instructed to investigate the death of Police Sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein on 13 January and the cause of a fire which razed about 20 homes on 28 January, no instructions were issued for an investigation into allegations that an Arakanese mob massacred up to 48 Rohingyas in the town.
According to a report on Friday in state-run The New Light of Myanmar, the investigation commission is to submit a report directly to the president by 28 February after investigating the following incidents:
“(a) To investigate the root cause of the death of Police Sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein from Khayay Myaing Police Outpost at Ducheertan [Duchira Dan] village on 13 January 2014 and whether there is evidence of foul play in his death.
“(b) To probe the root cause of the fire outbreak at Ducheertan west village on 28 January 2014 and to identify who had set fire the village.
“(c) To probe false and groundless reports of Ducheertan west village fire and who made the reporting.
“(d) Deaths and injuries and loss of property in the incidents.
“(e) Suggested measures to be taken to prevent such incidents from recurrence.”
No mention is made of the alleged rapes, lynchings and murders of Rohingya villagers that have been reported. The UN has said it has “credible evidence” that 48 Rohingyas in Duchira Dan were massacred last month – eight men on 9 January in an attack by a Buddhist mob, then another 40 men, women and children in a retaliatory attack following the disappearance of Police Sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein on 13 January.
The Burmese government has vehemently denied that such a massacre took place. “We have had no information about killings,” Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told reporters on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Nations Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Bagan, and he suggested that the “reports might be a cover-up, because of the policeman going missing.”
Naypyidaw has also been quick to slam media for reporting on the alleged incident. On 24 January, Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement condemning “foreign media and some international agencies [for] issuing press releases based on unjustified conclusions drawing from unverified information in relation to the incidents which took place … on 13 January in Duchira Dan.”
On Thursday, DVB reported that the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission had concluded an inquiry into the alleged Rohingya massacre in Maungdaw’s Duchira Dan-West village, saying it has found no solid evidence of any massacre taking place.
However, in a statement to DVB on Friday, international relief agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) indicated that an outbreak of violence had occurred in the Rohingya-populated village on 13 January, although it could not confirm any fatalities.
“We can confirm that our staff treated 22 patients in the area near Du Char Yar Tan [Duchira Dan] village from a variety of violence-related injuries in the days after January 14,” said MSF Myanmar Head of Mission Peter-Paul de Groote.
In addition to omitting mention of the allegations of a massacre, presidential instruction (c) would appear to presume that any contradictory report on the cause of the fire in the village on 28 January would be “false and groundless”.
Arakanese officials and police were united in condemning Rohingya villagers for setting fire to their own homes, though allegations have also emerged that local Maungdaw police were complicit in the arson attack.
The latter account has been publicly denounced by the government.
In a letter to DVB on Friday, Pierre Péron, the Public Information and Advocacy Officer for Myanmar UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the UN welcomed the President’s call for investigations into the reported incidents last month in Duchira Dan and “looks forward to seeing their conclusive reports and findings”.
“While the accounts of what happened may differ, what we can all agree on is that more than three weeks later, many people are still displaced and tensions remain very high in the area,” said Péron.
He reiterated that the UN is continuing to ask for “complete and sustained access to the area in order to assess the needs of affected people and, if needed, to provide emergency assistance to them.”
MSF made a similar call. “We continue to request the Government of Myanmar to enable safe access to the affected population for humanitarian personnel and ensure the security of the civilian population in need of assistance,” said de Groot.
According to the presidential order, the Duchira Dan Investigation Commission will comprise the following members: Dr Tha Hla Shwe of Myanmar Red Cross Society as Commission Chairman; Tun Aung Chein of Myanmar National Human Rights Commission; Dr Ngun Kyon Lyan, an international law expert; Dr Tin Thein Lwin, the vice-chairman of Interfaith Friendship Group; retired ambassador Tin Oo; Haji Tin Maung Win of the Interfaith Friendship Group; Win Ti of the Interfaith Friendship Group; Sittwe town elder Tha Pwint; Maungdaw town elder Hla Thein; and Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing, the secretary of Myanmar Egress.