Deaths reported by military bring number of people killed since weekend attacks on police outposts in Rakhine to 39
At least 10 more men have been killed by Myanmar soldiers in response to an assault by armed attackers during military clearance operations in the troubled western state of Rakhine, official media claimed Thursday.
The latest reported deaths would bring the number of people killed since deadly weekend attacks on police station outposts in Myanmar’s west to 39 — including nine police, four soldiers and 26 men.
The raided outposts were located in Maungdaw and Yathay Taung townships, two areas predominantly occupied by the country’s stateless Rohingya Muslim population.
The army-run Myawady newspaper reported Thursday that people armed with guns, swords and sticks attacked troops who were searching near Kyetyoepyin Village on Wednesday for weapons stolen in the weekend raids.
“Ten dead bodies of armed attackers and a gun were found after the violent exchange,” it said.
According to the report, a group of armed men also attacked the staff quarters of No.1 border post near Kyikanpyin Village in Maungtaw Township on Wednesday.
The attackers then set fire to Warpaik Village in the township, destroying around 25 houses, before withdrawing in a southeast direction, it said.
A 74-year-old Rohingya man, however, accused the troops of discriminatory actions against villagers.
“They asked us where the attackers are hiding. We told them no one is hiding in our village,” he told Anadolu Agency by phone Thursday on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisals.
“An army captain shouted at us — ‘Son of the b****. You are lying to us’ — and ordered the troops to set our house on fire,” he said.
The man, originally a resident of Warpaik who is now in Kyetyoepyin after his home was destroyed, added that around 50 houses were burned Wednesday in his village.
In the wake of the initial attacks on three police stations in Maungdaw and Yathay Taung — both close to the Bangladesh border — early Sunday, at least 39 people — nine police, four soldiers and 26 men — have been killed.
On Tuesday, a senior police officer in state capital Sittwe underlined to Anadolu Agency by phone that the two men captured during the initial attacks were not from the area.
“They are neither Myanmar nationals nor local Bengalis,” said the man, using a word to describe Rohingya that suggests they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
He declined to comment, however, if they were Bangladesh citizens.
“It’s not the right time to disclose the country and organization they belong to,” said the officer, who asked not to be named as he did not have the authority to speak to media.
“They [the men] said local Bengalis helped them as they are angry over government plans to demolish mosques in the areas.”
Last month, Rakhine regional government pledged to tear down more than 3,000 religious structures, including 12 mosques and 35 madrasas (religious schools) built without permission in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships.
Later Tuesday, the central government asked Bangladesh for help with the investigation.
Since the attacks began, an overnight curfew (7 p.m. – 6 a.m.) has been imposed, around 400 government schools temporarily closed, and all border trade gates and crossings with neighboring Bangladesh shuttered.
Maungdaw and Yathay Taungare are still governed by a partial curfew (11 p.m. – 4 a.m.) placed since communal violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya broke out in mid-2012 in which around 100 people are reported to have died.
Rohingya advocacy groups have also voiced concern at what they claim is a violent crackdown on the Muslim minority group.
“Mass arrests are taking place,” a statement released late Monday headlined Stop Killing Innocent Rohingya in Arakan (the British colonial name for Rakhine) said.
It claimed that following the attacks more than 10 “innocent” Rohingya were killed by Myanmar military forces and police and many Rohingya women had also been arrested.
Since mid-2012, Rakhine, one of the poorest regions in Myanmar, has been subject to incidents of communal violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya that have left nearly 100 dead and some 100,000 people displaced in camps.
On Oct. 3, Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi called on Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states for support in solving the “complex situation” in Rakhine, home to around 1.2 million Rohingya.
Since her party’s victory in the Nov. 8 election, Suu Kyi has been placed under tremendous international pressure to solve problems faced by Rohingya but has had to play a careful balancing act for fear of upsetting the country’s nationalists, many of whom have accused Muslims of trying to eradicate the country’s Buddhist traditions.
Suu Kyi has, however, enforced the notion that the root of many of the impoverished region’s problems are economic, and is encouraging investment in the area, which in turn the National League for Democracy hopes will lead to reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities.