Rakhine leader faces Myan­mar court af­ter deadly ri­ots

Mizzima Business Weekly - - NEWS ROUNDUPS -

ARakhine Bud­dhist politi­cian fac­ing trea­son charges linked to deadly ri­ots ap­peared in a Myan­mar court on 7 March, a case that has ag­gra­vated eth­nic ten­sions in a re­gion also roiled by the crack­down on Ro­hingya Mus­lims.

Rakhine state has seethed with eth­nic ha­treds for years, with persecution of the Ro­hingya mi­nor­ity cul­mi­nat­ing in a ruth­less army cam­paign against them that started last Au­gust and sparked a mass ex­o­dus.

Yet the Bud­dhist Rakhine com­mu­nity, some of whom are ac­cused of aid­ing sol­diers in the crack­down, has also fre­quently clashed with the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and ten­sions have soared since ri­ots rocked a Rakhine town in Jan­uary.

Aye Maung, an MP and for­mer chair­man of a Rakhine po­lit­i­cal party known for hard­line anti-Ro­hingya views, was charged for al­legedly mak­ing an in­flam­ma­tory speech against the cen­tral gov­ern­ment on Jan­uary 15, a day be­fore the un­rest.

State-backed me­dia said he railed against the gov­ern­ment for treat­ing Rakhine peo­ple as "slaves" and said it was the "right time" for the com­mu­nity to launch an armed strug­gle.

The fol­low­ing evening eth­nic Rakhine protesters briefly seized a gov­ern­ment building in Mrauk U, an eth­nic Rakhine town. Po­lice opened fire on the mob and killed seven peo­ple, sour­ing al­ready bit­ter re­la­tions be­tween the com­mu­nity and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. Aye Maung, who was ar­rested later that week and faces charges of high trea­son, in­cite­ment and un­law­ful association, has in­sisted on his in­no­cence and ac­cused lo­cal au­thor­i­ties of a politi­cised witch-hunt.

"We think that the ad­min­is­tra­tive side wants to charge us. That's why the ju­di­cial pil­lar must stand firmly," he told AFP at the heav­ily guarded court in state cap­i­tal Sit­twe.

The deadly ri­ots ex­posed the bit­ter and com­plex eth­nic fault-lines in Rakhine, where some 700,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims based fur­ther north have fled over the bor­der into Bangladesh since a mil­i­tary cam­paign be­gan in Au­gust. Mem­bers of the eth­nic Rakhine Bud­dhist pop­u­la­tion are ac­cused of as­sist­ing the mil­i­tary in a cam­paign of mur­der, rape and arson against the Ro­hingya.

Myan­mar staunchly de­nies the charges. Un­like the Ro­hingya Mus­lims, the Rakhine are recog­nised by the gov­ern­ment as an eth­nic mi­nor­ity but are of­ten marginalised un­der a sys­tem that favours the na­tion­ally dom­i­nant Ba­mar (Burmese).

Some 100 protesters ral­lied out­side the court­house in support of both Aye Maung and fel­low de­tainee and writer Wai Hin Aung, who faces the same charges for a speech at the same event. "We feel very sorry to see Dr Aye Maung and Wai Hin Aung like this. They are work­ing for the peo­ple," 53-year-old Tin Phyu said.

Gabrielle Aron, an in­de­pen­dent an­a­lyst in Myan­mar, said a guilty ver­dict would be widely in­ter­preted as a move to "po­lit­i­cally op­press the Rakhine peo­ple". The pro­ceed­ings "have the po­ten­tial to fur­ther desta­bilise an al­ready tense sit­u­a­tion", she added.

Aye Muang, cen­tre, out­side the court. Photo: EPA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.