THE ﬁrst sight as you approach Maungdaw along a bumpy dirt road, after taking the daily ferry from Sit-twe to Buthidaung, is a “Welcome to Maungdaw” gateway erected in 2000. There are hints of trouble – the glass in its clock tower was cracked during violence in June 2012 and remains unrepaired; signboards in town carry messages such as “People can be safe if there is rule of law” and “Our town will be developed if there is peace and stability” – but for the most part Maungdaw appears peaceful. In reality, it has for many years been torn between two very diﬀer-ent – some would say irreconcilable – societies.In the nearby village of Du Chee Yar Tan West, the ashes where homes once stood are testament to the extent of the conﬂict. More than a dozen homes were torched on January 28, 15 days after a policeman went miss-ing in the area. The ﬂames have been extin-guished, but a ﬁre of hatred and anxi-ety still burns.The Buddhist and Muslim com-munities now blame each other for the ﬁre. Some have accused the police force of involvement; not only does the government deny this, but it has accused the Muslims of burning their own homes.“Police, ward administrators and ethnic Rakhines set ﬁre our houses,” said Muslim Lailar Bacon, as he sifted through the remains of rice that was burned in the ﬁre.“All our staple foods – rice, oil and so on – were lost in the ﬁre. Why would we burn our own homes?”Rakhine living near Du Chee Yar Tan expressed concern about the safety of their families and business-es, as well as access to education for their children – following last month’s violence, teachers posted to schools in Rakhine villages ran away and schools remain closed.“We dare not go outside our vil-lage to catch frogs and crabs because the Bengalis are provoking us,” said U Tun Hla Aung from the Rakhine vil-lage of Khayay Myine. “At night they also destroyed the crops we had grown with loans from the bank because they know that if we can’t pay back the interest we will be arrested.” Locals – Rakhine locals, at least –are in no doubt as to the cause of the conﬂict. There are 381 villages in Maungdaw. Of those, 86 are Rakhine, Kathe and Hindu, while 288 are Mus-lim – Bengali or Rohingya, depending on your sympathies. Just seven are a mix of Rakhine and Muslim.State records put the Rakhine population at 21,355 and the Muslim population at 444,725. Muslim house-holds, at 51,241, outnumber Rakhine 10 to one.“Ninety-eight percent of popula-tion growth is among the Bengali population. Rakhine account for 1pc and civil servants another 1pc. The population gap is now very big,” said Maungdaw resident Ko Kyaw Kyaw Tun.“We are suﬀering the consequenc-es of poor border control,” he said.Rakhine residents frequently de-cry what they describe as a growing lawlessness in the township, typiﬁed by the attack on a police patrol in Du Chee Yar Tan Middle village by a Mus-lim mob on January 13.The head of the patrol, Police Ser-geant Aung Kyaw Thein – along with his M20 gun – remains missing. “There is no rule of law in Maungdaw,” said Rakhine political activist and Maungdaw resident Ko Win Thein. “Because there is no law and order, a policeman was killed and his weapon taken. The authori-ties couldn’t even resolve the case yet. We feel like we are living in a rebel area.” Authorities say they are doing their best to implement the law in dif-ﬁcult circumstances.“There may have been some prob-lems with border control manage-ment but we are now carefully check-ing all border crossings,” said a senior oﬃcer from the state’s police force.In the case of the attack on Police Sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein, the au-thorities have issued arrest warrants for 27 people, said Police Colonel Nay Myo, the head of the Rakhine State Police Force.“Eleven of those are going to the other country to receive an award and the rest are hiding in the Ben-gali villages,” he said. “We’ve got a list of their names and taking steps so that they can be arrested as soon as possible.” But Rakhine residents say the au-thorities are ﬁghting a losing battle.“If we stay in our village, we feel like we are just waiting for death,” said U Tun Hla Aung from Khayay Myine. “One day our village will dis-appear.”
– Translation by Thiri Min Htun and Zar Zar Soe
In Maungdaw, a fire still rages
SI THU LWIN
A Muslim boy stands beside burned homes in Maungdaw’s Du Chee Yar Tan West village on February 1.
Photo: Si Thu Lwin
A Muslim man holds burned rice in Du Chee Yar Tan West village.
Photo: Si Thu Lwin
Rohingya hluttaw rep questioned by police
UNION Solidarity and Development Party MP U Shwe Maung has been questioned by police in Nay Pyi Taw over comments he made to Demo-cratic Voice of Burma about possible police involvement in a ﬁre that broke out in a Muslim village in Rakhine State late last month.More than a dozen homes were destroyed in the blaze at Du Chee Yar Tan West village near Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State on January 28.U Shwe Maung said the February 4 interrogation came at the behest of President U Thein Sein, who sent a letter to Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann requesting per-mission for police to question the MP.The interview lasted about 90 minutes and was conducted at his USDP living quarters in Nay Pyi Taw. It focused on allegations that U Shwe Maung, a Rohingya, had defamed the state and police by saying that resi-dents believed security forces were involved in starting the ﬁre.U Shwe Maung said he was asked to reveal the names and phone num- bers of those he received the informa-tion from. He agreed to give the infor-mation but only with the approval of Thura U Shwe Mann.The full video of his interview with DVB may also be produced as evi-dence in order to establish the broader context for his comments.U Shwe Maung told
The Myan-mar Times
on February 2 that he is normally cautious with his choice of words.“I always censor myself so that I don’t violate any law and avoid words which may confuse or mislead people. I always maintain and balance my words to avoid any religious and eth-nic misunderstanding.” A January 29 statement issued by the Ministry of Information conﬁrmed the police and ﬁre oﬃcials had re-sponded to a ﬁre in Du Chee Yar Tan village at about 8:45pm the previous evening. Five “Bengalis” were seen running away from the ﬁre, the state-ment said.“There is no Rakhine village near that village, and the neighbouring vil-lages are just Bengali villages. They ran away after setting ﬁre to their houses,” it said.