Heightened Fears of Muslim Attack in Myanmar’s Maungdaw Forces Ethnic Rakhine to Flee

Several killings coupled with alarm about attacks by Rohingya Muslims have forced an increasing number of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists to flee volatile Maungdaw township in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, prompting troops in the area to be put on high alert and a state parliamentary official to call for increased security, local sources said.

San Kyaw Hla, speaker of the Rakhine state parliament, addresses lawmakers during a session in Sittwe, western Myanmar's Rakhine state

Soldiers were put on high alert in Maungdaw following the departure of about 200 Rakhine Buddhist villagers from Maungdaw after a string of local killings, Reuters reported.

Last week, Myanmar security forces killed three men while clearing a suspected Rohingya insurgent training camp in a mountain range in the Maungdaw-Buthidaung township area where tunnels, weapons, huts, rations, and training materiel were discovered during a two-day security clearance operation.

In response to departures of more local residents from Maungdaw, Rakhine state parliament speaker San Kyaw Hla told a meeting of lawmakers that the state parliament and government should work together to ensure the safety of ethnic Rakhine residents—who are a minority in the Muslim-majority northern part of the state—and prevent them from leaving Maungdaw.

“People left their houses because they were in danger,” he said during a parliamentary session. “Parliament and the government must work together to protect them.”

He also said that lawmakers and government officials should have the same attitude towards national stability and national interests.

San Kyaw Hla reminded lawmakers that the state government must implement the decisions of the state parliament and submit periodic reports about the situation on the ground in Rakhine to the national government and state parliament according to the country’s 2008 constitution.

Local ethnic Rakhine residents have been leaving their homes since 2012 following communal violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists that left more than 200 people dead and tens of thousands of others displaced.

Another exodus of local residents occurred after deadly attacks on border guard posts last October in northern Rakhine state by a shadowy militant group that claimed to represent the country’s Rohingya Muslims.

Myanmar soldiers swept into the northern Rakhine townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung for four months to hunt down others involved in the raids.

Besides thousands of ethnic Rakhine residents who sought temporary shelter in other towns, tens of thousands of Rohingya residents fled the area as well, heading across the border in neighboring Bangladesh, where some accused security forces of indiscriminate murder, arson, torture, and rape in their villages during the operation.

Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
SOURCE: http://www.rfa.org/english