( Narinjara News: 28 March 2014)
The Sittwe police fired several bullets into the air to disperse a crowd of local residents on Wednesday evening who demonstrated against a foreign NGO named Malteser.
The demonstrations took place in front of Malteser office in the Arakan capital city following an American woman worker belonged to Malteser was seen wearing a Buddhist religious flag as the skirt (or sarong) in the office, said a police source.
“When the local residents heard about it, they rushed to the Malteser office located at Baukthisu ward of Sittwe and demonstrated their furies towards the American woman,” said U Maung Hla, a social activist based in Sittwe.
The protesters soon attacked several offices of Malteser in Sittwe. As the agitators were increasing in number, several prominent monks, elderly citizens and high profile police officers arrived in the spot and asked the crowd to come down. When the crowd did not follow the request, the police took the path of firing on air.
“For records, more that 2000 people gathered in front a Malteser office in Kyaung Tet Land road by 11 at night and they even destroyed the office partially,” added U Maung Hla.
U Mrat Tun, a politician, said, “I could hear many rounds of fire in the midnight. I guess, it should be over 50 bullets fired by the police. Later the crowd disappeared. Of course, no one was reported sustaining injuries because of police firing.”
A police officer from Sittwe disclosed that the tension started from 8 pm following a rumor that a Malteser lady worker was wearing a Buddhist religious flag to deplore the Buddhist community.
It may be mentioned that the Arakanese people have taken a path of agitation with hoisting the Buddhist religious flag against the authority’s ‘permisison’ to the Bengali Muslims to use Rohingya as their community in the national census.
One can see the religious flags everywhere now in the western Burma province where the residents have put the flags on vehicles, ships, motorboats, buildings as their mark of protest.
However the government has clarified that it has not authorized anyone to put the word (Rohingya) in stead of regular Bengali Muslim titles in the census, as Rohingya is not a recognized ethnic group or nationality in Burma.
Unconfirmed police source said that the American woman with two other colleagues from Malteser were brought to the police station for some time to avoid any unwanted incident in the locality.