Authorities in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state tightened security in the state capital after a Buddhist mob attacked and killed one Rohingya Muslim man and injured six others in the latest act of sectarian violence to rock the restive state, local police said on Wednesday.
A group of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists threw bricks at the Rohingya men and attacked a vehicle in which they were traveling in the Buddhist-majority Ywar Gyi Mrauk neighborhood of Sittwe on Tuesday, killing 55-year-old Maung Nu, also known as Monir Ahmad, according to a statement issued by the office of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
The violence prompted police to step up patrols in the area, said Sittwe district police chief Lieutenant Colonel Win Naung.
“Everything in Sittwe is well under control,” he said. “We have made all necessary arrangements for the safety of the townsfolk in Sittwe.”
Police are investigating the incident, but no arrests have been made, he said.
Two seriously injured men are being treated at Sittwe General Hospital, while the four others have been sent back to the Dapaing internally displaced persons camp (IDP), the statement said.
Those who were attacked were among 10 Rohingya who had received permission to leave the camp on the city’s outskirts to give statements at a criminal case in a Sittwe court, according to state media reports.
During a break in the trial, seven of the men asked police to escort them to a nearby dock where they discussed buying a boat from a local businessman.
An argument broke out on the boat jetty, attracting the attention of local residents who then attacked the men, state media said.
A police escort, who was not carrying a weapon, was unable to stop the angry mob from hurling bricks at the men, and he fled the scene unharmed, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar views the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and denies them citizenship, basic rights, and access to jobs and health care.
The worst clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya in Rakhine occurred in 2012 when communal violence left more than 200 dead and displaced tens of thousands of Rohingya who were sent to IDP camps. About 120,000 Rohingya remain in the camps.
More recently, about 1,000 Rohingya were killed and 90,000 were forced to flee their homes in the northern part of Rakhine state during a four-month security operation by Myanmar soldiers and border patrolmen that began in October 2016 after a deadly attack on border guard stations. An obscure group of militant Rohingya was blamed for the raids.
Some of the Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh accused Myanmar security forces of committing atrocities against them during the crackdown.
The United Nations issued a resolution in March calling for the dispatch of an independent, international fact-finding mission to investigate the allegations.
Myanmar, however, disassociated itself from the resolution because de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi said the move was not in keeping with what was actually happening on the ground in northern Rakhine.
She has appointed a commission led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan to examine the situation on the ground in Rakhine and propose ways to solve the sectarian tensions. The commission’s final report is due in August.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.