Thursday, July 30, 2009

Burmese Muslims attack government office

(DVB)–Around 40 Muslims in western Burma were detained for allegedly ransacking a local immigration office after officials there assaulted a local Muslim man for not paying a fine.

A resident in Arakan state’s Kyauk Ni Maw village said the dispute started after a local Muslim man who returned from travelling refused to pay a fine for exceeding stay outside of the village as shown in his travel permit.

Muslims in Arakan state are required to get a document known as the Form-4 from government immigration if they want to travel outside of their region.

“He said he couldn’t pay the money they asked for as he had already paid a lot acquiring the [permission] document and the officials [at the immigration office] beat him up,” said the village resident, adding that he was left with a broken arm and vomiting blood.”

News on the attack quickly spread to Kyauk Ni Maw village where 75 percent of the population are Muslim. Some local villagers, including the man’s relatives, were enraged.

“They went to the immigration office and beat up the people who beat up the man. They also tore down the office building and broke some flag poles,” he said.

Following the incident, authorities arrested around 40 people, including some who were not involved, the villager said, and detained them in nearby Yanbyal township jail.

The detainees are due to appear in court on 10 August where they will face charges for breaching peace.

“They just arrested random people, but all Muslim, in the village without identifying who was involved in the attack,” said the villager. “Some people had already fled in fear of getting arrested in connection with the case.”

Muslims living in Burma have long been marginalized by the military government.

Three prominent ‘anti-Muslim’ riots have erupted in Burma in the past 12 years following heightened tension between Muslims and Buddhists.

Their situation was thrown into the spotlight earlier this year when around 1000 Rohingya refugees washed up in boats on Thailand’s shores, only to be towed back out to sea and set adrift by Thai authorities.

The Rohingya, who are a minority Muslim population, are not recognized by the Burmese government and suffer frequent discrimination due to their lack of legal status.

Reporting by Thurein Soe

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