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Security forces are on high alert in Sittwe amid communal tensions following the death of a Rohingya Muslim man yesterday at the hands of an Arakanese Buddhist mob. However, local sources in the Arakan capital say the situation has been contained.
Police in Sittwe say they are investigating the case.
What appears evident is that the man who was killed was among 10 men who had been given official permission to leave the Dapaing IDP camp to attend a court hearing in the town. An additional seven Rohingya men apparently followed them of their own volition. During a break in the trial, seven of the men went to Sittwe port to negotiate purchase of a boat. They were accompanied by two policemen when they went to Sittwe township court, and it appears that one police officer went with the seven to the port.
According to the State Counsellor’s Office Information Committee, the seven Muslim men were attacked with bricks by Arakanese town residents. One man, Maung Nu, was killed.
Pol Maj Win Naung from Sittwe district told DVB on Wednesday that no one had yet been arrested.
“We have the situation under control, but we don’t yet know who was involved in the attack,” he said by telephone. “Six Muslim men have been treated for injuries at Sittwe General Hospital and they are in good condition.”
Ywar Gyi Mrauk ward administrator Htay Win Tun said that the clash between two rival groups did not reflect the current climate in the town, and that tensions were in no way similar to the conditions that led to the communal violence of 2012.
“We are in control of the local Arakanese population and we believe tensions have eased quickly,” he said. “The current situation is good.”
He added that Rohingya Muslims were forbidden from going to the market in Sittwe or to Arakanese Buddhist neighbourhoods without official permission.
Pressure on UN Mission
The Burmese government has recently been under pressure from the international community to take action against security forces in the area who are alleged to have tortured and killed Rohingya Muslims in the wake of a militant attack on Burmese border policemen on 9 October in Maungdaw.
After the refusal of Burmese government to allow a UN fact-finding mission into Arakan State, the Malaysian government has said that it is preparing to take diplomatic action against Burma.
Malaysian media quoted Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi saying, “I will discuss [the matter] with Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman. We will look into the latest report of the on-goings in Myanmar.”
Naypyidaw has responded by calling on all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, to support each other.
Zaw Htay, the spokesperson of Burma’s State Counsellor’s Office, told DVB that ASEAN member states have a responsibility to support each other in line with the ASEAN charter.
“I want to say that the support needs to be constructive and resolution-oriented,” he said.
Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of Fortify Rights, said on Wednesday that ASEAN member states haven’t done nearly enough in helping to end human rights violations in Burma, and he called on Malaysia and other ASEAN states to pressure Naypyidaw to cooperate with the UN mission.
“While we welcome Malaysia’s concern for the Rohingya, the authorities could start by ending violations against refugees in their own back yard. Refugees in Malaysia face labour exploitation, lack access to health care and education, and are routinely rounded up and detained. No government should detain refugees simply for being refugees,” he said.
A delegation led by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) arrived in Arakan State on 3 July, and has visited the townships of Sittwe, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw and Maungdaw, where delegates met with both communities.
Bilateral talks on Rohingya issue
Meanwhile, Burma’s National Security Advisor Thaung Tun paid a visit on 2-4 July to Bangladesh where he met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and discussed the situation in Arakan State.
According to Bangladeshi media, Hasina told Thaung Tun that Bangladesh had some problems with displaced people in its Chittagong Hill Tracts.
“We’ll solve the problem bilaterally,” she reportedly said.
The Bangladeshi premier is reported saying that there are currently 30,000 registered “Myanmar Rohingyas” now residing in Bangladesh.
During the meeting, they also discussed the establishment of a Border Liaison Office and security cooperation between the neighbouring countries.