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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs