Sittwe: Violence between Arakanese Buddhists and minority Muslims has been escalating around Arakan state, leaving thousands of people homeless and dozens of people dead, said local and officials.
The violence began in Minbya on 21 October. Since then it has spread to many townships including Mrauk U, Kyauk Pru, Minbya and Mray bon, one after another.
According to a source, the violence is now growing to include central Arakan too.
The violence broke out in Minbya on the night of 21 October after an Arakanese man, U San Thein (47), was shot with an arrow by a Muslim man who quarreled with his wife, a spokesman of Arakan state government U Hla Thein told to media.
Just after the incident, many Arakanese in the downtown area of Minbya rushed to the spot as U San Thein cried out to help him. When large numbers of people gathered in the area of the Muslim ward of Paik Thei they began attacking each other with sticks, swords and fire.
In the incident, 18 houses out of the 200 belonging to Muslims in Paik Thei ward were burned down. Both sides, Arakanese and Muslim accused each other over the arson attack.
After the incident, another arson attack took place in the early morning on Monday at Thet Yet Okk Muslim village in Minbya Township, located on the upper Lay Mro River where 200 houses were burned down.
An Arakanese teacher from Pan Myung village near Thet Yet Okk village said the arson attack was conducted by poor Muslim villagers in the village after they faced hunger many days.
“I heard that poor Muslim villagers were starving in the village because they had not any earnings since June when violence broke out in Arakan state. They could not go to mountains and rivers, and they could not go to farms owned by Arakanese to work. The Muslim landlords in the village distributed some rice to poor families every day but it was not enough for their family to survive. So they wanted to be listed as refugees to get international aid. So they burned down their homes themselves and fled the village,” the teacher said.
However, Narinjara has not yet confirmed this.
After the arson attack in Thet Yet Okk village, another violent incident took place at Pa Rim in Mrauk U township after the villagers from Thet Yet Okk village gathered at the Muslim Pa Rim village.
In the Pa Rim incident, both sides attacked each other with swords and arrows. There were 100 houses including a monastery and mosque from both sides- Buddhist and Muslim- burnt down. The incident left three Arakanese and two Muslim women dead and several people injured. On the morning of October 23, a Muslim village named San Bali was attacked by Arakanese mobs where 29 houses were burnt to ashes.
According to local sources, in the incident, one Muslim Man from San Bali was shot dead by security forces while the security force tried to control the incident.
On 23 October, there were many violent incidents around Mrauk U Township. In an incident that broke out in Nagara village in the township two Arakanese – Maung Aung Myint (28) and Maung Soe Soe (27)- from Pan Myunt village died after being shot by the Burmese army while thousands of Arakanese went to Nagara Muslim village to attack.
On the day of October 23, there were many violent incidents in the villages of Yin Thi, Zi Zar and Naga Kwe. In Yin Thi, the whole village was set on fire and three Arakanese died. No information has been received from the Muslim side.
During the night of October 23, the violence escalated to Kyauk Pru and Mray Bon where many houses belonging to both Buddhist and Muslims were burned down.
The incident is likely to escalate throughout Arakan state unless the government can severely control the violence on time.