Myan­mar buries slain po­lice in Rakhine as troops pour in Mobs armed with knives and home­made weapons

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Myan­mar’s border guard yes­ter­day buried nine of­fi­cers killed in mys­te­ri­ous raids in the western state of Rakhine, as the mil­i­tary tight­ened con­trol over a re­gion long scarred by vi­o­lence be­tween Bud­dhists and Mus­lims. Uni­formed of­fi­cers car­ried the wooden coffins draped with na­tional flags through rain and thick mud be­fore lay­ing them to rest in a ceme­tery in the town of Maung­daw.

Troops have poured into the town and sur­round­ing area close to the Bangladesh border since the three co­or­di­nated at­tacks on Sun­day by what au­thor­i­ties have de­scribed as mobs armed with knives and home­made weapons. Most peo­ple in the area are Mus­lim Ro­hingya, a state­less mi­nor­ity whom Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ists vil­ify as il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Bangladesh-even though many have lived in Myan­mar for gen­er­a­tions.

The un­rest has fu­elled fears of a re­peat of 2012, when more than 100 peo­ple were killed in waves of sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence that drove tens of thou­sands of Ro­hingya into dis­place­ment camps. At least four peo­ple were killed in clashes with sol­diers on Mon­day as troops hunted for the at­tack­ers, po­lice said. Lo­cals put the toll at seven and said they were un­armed res­i­dents. “Peo­ple are frus­trated, peo­ple are un­der stress, peo­ple are hope­less here,” one Ro­hingya res­i­dent from Maung­daw, who asked not be named for his safety, told AFP.

Res­i­dents have been hid­ing in their houses for fear of the troops pa­trolling the streets, he said, warn­ing of im­pend­ing food short­ages. “We can­not go from one vil­lage to an­other vil­lage,” he said. “Be­cause move­ment is re­stricted and peo­ple can­not go here and there and the mar­ket is vir­tu­ally closed, (food) will be a big prob­lem for us.”

‘We dare not go out’

Au­thor­i­ties have sought to calm the situation, ex­tend­ing a re­gional cur­few to be­tween 7pm and 6am, and clos­ing some 400 schools around the area for the next two weeks. Myan­mar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has ap­pealed for calm and sev­eral min­is­ters and army top brass flew to Rakhine’s cap­i­tal Sit­twe yes­ter­day to try to ease ten­sions in nearby dis­place­ment camps. Ru­mors of killings and mass ar­rests around Maung­daw have spread like wild­fire on so­cial me­dia, stoking fear, but de­tails have proved dif­fi­cult to con­firm in the re­mote and tightly con­trolled area.

Yes­ter­day res­i­dents re­ported spo­radic gun­fire in some vil­lages to the north of Maung­daw. One lo­cal teacher, who did not give her name, said she had been hid­ing in a house along with some 20 other school staff and stu­dents, too scared to come out be­cause of the sound of gun­fire. “We haven’t eaten for two days. The situation is not so good,” she told AFP from Ngakhura, 42 kilo­me­ters from Maung­daw. “We heard fight­ing here and there. We do not dare to go out.” Au­thor­i­ties have re­leased few de­tails about the at­tack­ers or their mo­tives, eight of whom were killed dur­ing Sun­day’s raids. Two were cap­tured.

Pic­tures sent to AFP by a pho­tog­ra­pher in the area showed one of them, bedrag­gled and top­less, be­ing in­ter­ro­gated by in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers in Sit­twe. Some of­fi­cials have pointed the fin­ger at the Ro­hingya, in­clud­ing a long-silent armed group called the Ro­hingya Sol­i­dar­ity Or­ga­ni­za­tion, while oth­ers have blamed Bangladeshis and drug-traf­fick­ers. — AFP

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