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

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora