Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rohingya men still in custody of army authority in Northern Maungdaw

Maungdaw, Arakan (Kaladan Press): More than 200 Rohingya people were arrested and are being kept in custody by army personnel in Balukhali, under the Burmese border security force (Nasaka) section number 3, suspecting them of being involved in the clash between Rohingya villagers and army personnel on April 22, an aide of the Nasaka said.

“These Rohingya villagers were not involved in the clash, they are innocent. The Rohingya, who were involved have fled from the village and are hiding somewhere they think is safe,” said the aide.

On April 21, five soldiers in civilian clothes, who were stationed for the fencing project, went to Balu Khali village of Maungdaw Township and took away vegetables and chilies from the farms and also took betel leaves from villagers’ betel farms. At that time, the villagers asked them not to take such a lot of vegetables and betel leaves, but no untoward incident occurred as the villagers were tolerant, a businessman from the locality said.

On April 22, at about 10:00 am, 10 soldiers without arms, but in uniform went to Balukhali Village of Maungdaw Township. After arriving there, without asking the villagers, they started throwing water through open slice gates of fishing projects, and catching the fishes for their own. Seeing this, the villagers rushed to the spot and asked them not to catch the fishes from the fishing projects. However, they did not comply with the request of the villagers, a village elder from the locality said.

As a result, there were clashes between the soldiers and villagers, which is near the fencing project site, where the fencing project labors joined the fight. These labors had been forced to work at the site without wages day by day. They had been starved and were weak and were angry with the soldiers for beating Rohingya villagers, so the villagers and labors severely beat up the army personnel. After the incident, the wounded soldiers went to their station at Kurkhali village, where their army officer is stationed. The wounded soldiers told him the incident in detail, but the army officer immediately did not go to the village for revenge, said a close aide of the Nasaka.

The soldiers were taken to the Nasaka section number 4, where they were given medical treatment, the aide added.

Hearing the news, some Nasaka came to the spot and asked the soldiers not to indulge in such action as villagers had lost a lot of money, to establish the shrimp projects, the aide added.

However, on April 23, at about 1:00 pm, many groups of soldiers with guns went to the village to take revenge. Hearing the news, the nearby villagers also marched to the spot to help the villagers, who were being victimized by the army. Seeing more villagers marching to the village, the army fired two rounds into the air to stop them.

After that more than 200 villagers were arrested by the army and brought to their camp. No one knows what the fate of the arrestees will be. A tense situation has been prevailing in the area since Sunday morning, said a schoolteacher from the locality.

According to information from a person, who was involved in the clash, after the clash, all the adults ran into the jungle to escape persecution. The army arrested 18 young women from the village, who were detained for some hours and kept in the water, but released later. The women were innocent but it is the habit of the brutal Burmese forces, to harass the innocent when they do not find any of the actual culprits.

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