More Schools Reopen in Myanmar’s Maungdaw Township

2016-11-01
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A primary school sits abandoned in Myothugyi village, Maungdaw township, in western Myanmar's Rakhine state, Oct. 16, 2016.
A primary school sits abandoned in Myothugyi village, Maungdaw township, in western Myanmar's Rakhine state, Oct. 16, 2016.
AFP

Nearly 50 schools reopened in Rakhine state’s restive Maungdaw township on Tuesday, three weeks after local authorities ordered them shut following deadly attacks on guard stations close to the Bangladesh border, a local education official said.

Authorities reopened 49 government-run schools for Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in various villages which had been closed since Oct. 10, said Khin Aung, Maungdaw township’s education officer.

Officials had restarted classes at other schools in Maungdaw and neighboring Buthidaung township on Oct. 24.

Maungdaw is a majority-Muslim area in a state that has experienced bloody sectarian clashes in recent years pitting majority Buddhists against Rohingya, a mostly stateless group of Muslims.

“We have reopened 49 schools today as the second step,” Khin Aung told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

About 100 schools still remain closed for security purposes, he said.

Security guards have accompanied teachers, who had fled violence that ensued after the Oct. 9 attacks, back to the villages where they work, he said.

The Rakhine state government plans to replace female teachers who teach in Muslim villages with male teachers, he said.

“We will reopen Bengali schools that have male headmasters as the next step,” Khin Aung said, using a derogatory term for Rohingya Muslims used by Myanmar’s Buddhists who view the Muslims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Searches and arrests

After a Muslim group raided three border guard stations and killed nine guards on Oct. 9, authorities immediately shut down hundreds of government-operated schools, and many teachers fled the area.

A security sweep of Muslim villages followed during which army soldiers and border police forcibly searched homes looking for stolen weapons and the perpetrators of the attacks.

The searches sparked armed conflicts between security forces and groups of armed men that sent thousands of Rakhine ethnics and Rohingya Muslims fleeing their homes.

There have been reports of arbitrary arrests, executions of unarmed civilians, arson, and rapes in Maungdaw during the security crackdown.

Myanmar government officials have blamed a Rohingya group that received training and funding from Islamists outside the country for the Oct. 9 attacks and subsequent violence.

So far, authorities have killed 30 people believed to have been involved in the attacks and captured nearly 60 others.

On Monday, they arrested two villagers in Maungdaw for providing some of the attackers with boat transportation to Bangladesh, the military newspaper Myawaddy reported.

Another man suspected of being involved in the Maungdaw attacks was arrested in Buthidaung and taken to a police station, the report said.

Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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