Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rakhine death toll hits 67 as government defends soldiers

A man with a gunshot wound is treated at Kyauktaw Township Hospital in Rakhine State on Thursday, October 25, 2012. (Kaung Htet / The Myanmar Times)A man with a gunshot wound is treated at Kyauktaw Township Hospital in Rakhine State on Thursday, October 25, 2012. (Kaung Htet / The Myanmar Times)

The secretary of the Rakhine State government’s information committee has denied claims Rakhine people have been targeted by security forces, saying soldiers acted without “bias or mistakes” in quelling riots in Kyauktaw and Rathedaung townships.

The comments came as state media reported on October 27 that 67 people had been killed and 95 injured in the latest outbreak of violence in the region.

A number of Rakhine people were killed or seriously injured due to gunshot wounds inflicted by security forces on October 25. The accusations of bias were based on the fact that almost no Rohingya, or Bengalis, had sought treatment at hospitals.

The Myanmar Times witnessed 14 Rakhine people with gunshot and knife wounds arrive at Kyauktaw Township Hospital between 6pm and 9pm on October 25. One man, from Tinmakyay village, died shortly after arrival from a gunshot wound to the head, while another died while being brought from Taungbway village to the hospital by boat. The body of another deceased man with a gunshot wound was brought to Kyauktaw Hospital early on October 26.

“The forces only shot in order to frighten and disperse mobs. But they continued to shoot when the mobs became bigger so there may have been deaths due to gunshot wounds,” U Win Myaing told reporters in Sittwe on October 26.

“In the incident in Letsaungkauk village, Kyauktaw township, some were shot by handmade firearms known as tumi. In the aftermath, some tumi were confiscated. There was no bias or mistakes made by the forces,” he said.

U Win Myaing said communal clashes were sparked by a domestic dispute in a Rohingya family in Minbya township, with violence spreading to Kyaukpyu, Mrauk Oo, Myebon, Kyauktaw and Rathetaung townships.

“It started in a remote area on the border of Minbya and Mrauk Oo townships. According to the latest figures, in the six townships there are 64 dead, including 34 men and 30 women, 72 injured, including 68 men and four women, including 10 children, and 2329 homes destroyed by fire,” he said.

State media reported a slightly higher toll on October 27 of 67 dead, 95 wounded and 2818 homes damaged. No casualty breakdown was given by community.

In response to a question about whether the government would increase security in the region further, U Win Myaing said security was “adequate”.

“It is true that there will possibly be more riots like this again because Rakhine are the minority and Bengali the majority in remote areas that are out of reach of administrative offices and where transportation is poor,” he said.

“But if we raise the number of the security, the international community can say we use excessive force so we have no plan to increase security.”

He said on October 27 that troops were “taking control” of potential hotspots, adding the situation was now “calm” after security forces were deployed to the affected areas where violence erupted on October 21.