News / Asia

    Buddhist Mob Attacks NGO Office in Burma

    Protestors take part in a demonstration against Burma's forthcoming nationwide census in Mrauk-U in Rakhine state, March 16, 2014.
    Protestors take part in a demonstration against Burma's forthcoming nationwide census in Mrauk-U in Rakhine state, March 16, 2014.
    VOA News
    Burmese officials say a Buddhist mob has attacked the offices of an international relief group in the volatile western state of Rakhine.

    Police say hundreds of people surrounded and threw stones at the offices of Malteser International late Wednesday in the town of Sittwe.

    Officials say police fired warning shots into the air to disperse the crowd.  Residents said the unrest continued Thursday, with the mob attacking homes and other properties housing members of the aid group.

    A member of the national parliament from Rakhine State, Pe Than, told VOA's Burmese service the violence has been stopped and foreign Malteser aid workers are under police protection.

    “[A curfew] has been imposed till 6:00 AM [Friday].  I was also told all the foreigners are gathered at Sittwe Hotel and [authorities] have [provided] full security for them,” said Pe Than.

    Rakhine state legislator Aung Myat Kyaw said the problems started when a member of the aid group removed a Buddhist flag in front of the facility.

    “The problem started when someone saw her insulting a Buddhist religious flag from flag pole near her office. She was doing something with that flag. Then that news spread to others and they felt angry about that,” Aung stated.

    Buddhists have placed flags in the village as part of a protest against the mainly Muslim Rohingya minority group.

    The U.S. State Department issued a statement Thursday condemning the attack. "We are deeply concerned by mob violence in Sittwe over the past day targeting U.N. offices and international NGOs," the statement said. "Despite some efforts by local authorities to ensure the security of humanitarian workers, we remain deeply concerned about the continued lack of adequate security forces and rule of law on the ground there and in Rakhine State."

    According to the statement the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon is in contact with Burmese officials and is discussing how to reinforce security.

    In a statement posted on its website, Malteser International denied accusations that a member of the aid group removed a Buddhist flag.

    "Malteser International is committed to the humanitarian principles and therefore the absolute ethnic and political neutrality of our work is our highest priority. We therefore avoid any form of political, religious or ethnic partisanship," Ingo Radtke, Secretary General of Malteser International, stated. "That is the reason why our program coordinator has removed the Buddhist flag which – in the local context – might be seen as a symbol for a political positioning. She did not act in any degrading manner or express any cultural misconduct. As she noticed the population’s disapproval, she has immediately handed over the flag to the owner of the warehouse. Our program coordinator has many years of experience in humanitarian aid and has been working for Malteser International already since 2013.”

    Buddhist-Muslim violence erupted in Rakhine state in 2012 and has since spread to other parts of the country. The sectarian fighting has killed at least 240 people and displaced 140,000 others, mainly Rohingya Muslims, who are called Bengali by the Burmese government.

    It is feared that tensions between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims will rise ahead of a nationwide census beginning Sunday.

    Many fear the count could marginalize minorities such as the Rohingya or other ethnic groups living in one of the many conflict areas in Burma, also known as Myanmar.  The predominantly Buddhist nation is recovering from decades of harsh, direct military rule.

    Last month, the government tossed the international medical aid group Doctors Without Borders from Rakhine state.  Government officials accused the group of stoking tensions by hiring Rohingya and providing more aid to Muslims than Buddhists.

    The government denies the Rohingya many basic rights, including citizenship. It views them as immigrants from Bangladesh.

    This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Burmese service.

    You May Like

    No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

    What began as a struggle for dominance in space between two world powers has changed entirely to one of joint efforts

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Move Over Millennials, Here Comes iGeneration

    How the first generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand, might change America

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    British Government to Resettle Unaccompanied Child Refugeesi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    May 06, 2016 9:24 PM
    After criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum, the British government has signaled that it will accept thousands of unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who have fled to Europe. It follows a campaign by a group of former Jewish refugees who were given refuge in Britain from Nazi persecution in the 1930s. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video British Government to Resettle Unaccompanied Child Refugees

    After criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum, the British government has signaled that it will accept thousands of unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who have fled to Europe. It follows a campaign by a group of former Jewish refugees who were given refuge in Britain from Nazi persecution in the 1930s. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Strangers Share Secrets Through Postcards

    Frank Warren owns a million secrets. Strangers from around the world send him postcards with their confessions, their disappointments, and their hopes for the future, all anonymously. He displays his favorites online and in exhibits, and shares them with audiences in sold-out appearances around the globe. As VOA's Julie Taboh reports, what started as a simple social experiment has evolved into a multi-faceted and hugely successful global phenomenon.
    Video

    Video Largest Ground-based Telescope Under Construction

    While NASA's engineers are nearing the final phase of assembling the new James Webb space telescope, scheduled to be deployed in 2018, an international consortium led by the U.S. is laying foundations and building parts for a ground-based telescope, much larger than any other. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora