Myanmar police have detained six people in connection with anti-Muslim riots in Rakhine state this week that left at least five people dead and more than 100 buildings destroyed, officials said Thursday, as authorities sought to restore calm to the restive region.
Tuesday’s violence was the latest to hit Myanmar in a series of incidents that have killed at least 45 people this year. Clashes between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists that rocked Rakhine state last year left more than 200 dead and 140,000 displaced.
Aye Maung, chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), told RFA’s Myanmar Service that six people were taken into custody by police late on Wednesday and were being investigated for their role in the riots.
“According to a list we have, six people were detained and are being investigated,” he said.
“We have to ask if these detentions and investigations are according to the constitution. The police need to have warrants or permission from a judge if they want to detain someone for more than 24 hours.”
He said that one of the six detained was RNDP Thandwe chairman Ko Maung Pu, who had been arrested at around 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday. He did not provide details about the other five detainees.
Myint Moe, a member of the Rakhine Buddhist group Myo Batha Tharthana, said that the six detainees were being held in Thandwe Prison.
“Three people from our group, two businessmen and a township level RNDP chairman were detained between 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. [on Wednesday] night,” he said.
“The detainees were sent to Thandwe Prison.”
The riots on Tuesday stemmed from an argument over the weekend between a Rakhine Buddhist and a local Kaman Muslim over a parking space for a motorcycle in Thandwe township, triggering arson attacks against property owned by Muslims.
The violence occurred as President Thein Sein made his first visit to Rakhine state since taking office in 2011. He met with leaders and officials from the affected township Wednesday to discuss ways to promote reconciliation between Buddhist and Muslim communities.
Rakhine State Attorney General Hla Thein said that five people were killed, including a 94-year-old Muslim woman who was stabbed to death, and four injured in the attacks, as 800 Buddhist rioters armed with knives and sticks went on a rampage in Thandwe’s Pauktaw and Thabyuchine villages.
“According to our list, 102 houses, a hut, two mosques, and a shop were burnt and destroyed,” he said.
“A total of 448 people from 103 households were left homeless.”
Agence France-Presse reported Thursday that the death toll had risen to six, all of whom were Muslim, citing police.
Authorities on Wednesday began enforcing a strict curfew between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. in the area, and residents said that many of the families that had fled the violence and were hiding in neighboring villages had returned home.
The Rakhine state government placed those who lost their homes in a refugee camp in nearby Linthe village and has been delivering aid to victims, residents said, adding that the injured have been receiving treatment at Thandwe Hospital.
Thein Sein on Thursday met with Thandwe residents and business owners but did not venture into outlying villages, before returning to the capital Naypyidaw.
Reported by Min Thein Aung, Sai Tun Aung Lwin and Myo Thant Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.