More than 60 houses in a predominantly Hindu village in the Maungdaw district of Myanmar's Rakhine state were gutted by fire on Thursday in an apparent act of negligence, a local community leader told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
The blaze left more than more than 600 residents of Ngakura village homeless, said Ni Maul, a Hindu social worker and local community leader.
Maungdaw township's administrator has provided rice and other food to the victims, and a Hindu civil society organization has gone to the village to provide on-the-ground assistance, he said.
“It occurred because of someone’s negligence,” Ni Maul said about the fire. “More than 600 people are staying at the village school.”
RFA could not reach Maungdaw authorities for comment.
Maungdaw, along with neighboring Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships, was the focal point of a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military against Rohingya Muslims that began late last August following a deadly attack by a Muslim militant group.
Thousands of Rohingya, who comprise the majority ethnic group in Maungdaw, were killed in the violence, and nearly 700,000 others fled to safety in neighboring Bangladesh where they live in sprawling displacement camps.
Hindus and other non-Muslims residing in northern Rakhine at the time of the crackdown have accused members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the militant group that conducted attacks on police outposts northern Rakhine on Aug. 25, of invading their villages and driving out or killing residents.
Local Hindus, including Ni Maul, and the Myanmar government in late September said ARSA militants detained nearly 100 people from several Hindu villages in the Kha Maung Seik village tract on the same day that the attacks occurred, killed most of them, and dumped their corpses in mass graves.
The militants also forced the young Hindu women to convert to Islam and took them to a Muslim refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Other Hindus fled to Bangladesh or to other parts of Rakhine state to escape the violence.
As part of a repatriation program for those who fled to Rakhine state during the violence, Bangladesh in February sent Myanmar a list of 8,032 refugees who indicated that they wanted to return voluntarily to Rakhine state.
So far, Myanmar officials have verified some 500 Rohingya refugees as eligible for return as well as about 400 Hindu refugees who also fled to Bangladesh from northern Rakhine and had been approved for return prior to the issuance of the list, Myint Thu, permanent secretary of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told RFA last week.
According to Myanmar's 2014 census, Hindus make up only 0.5 percent of the country's population, whereas 88 percent of the people identify as Buddhist and 4.3 percent as Muslim.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.