News / Asia

Dispute Continues Over Death Reports in Western Burma

FILE - Soldiers keep watch as they sit in a vehicle outside of Thandwe in Rakhine state Oct. 3, 2013.FILE - Soldiers keep watch as they sit in a vehicle outside of Thandwe in Rakhine state Oct. 3, 2013.
x
FILE - Soldiers keep watch as they sit in a vehicle outside of Thandwe in Rakhine state Oct. 3, 2013.
FILE - Soldiers keep watch as they sit in a vehicle outside of Thandwe in Rakhine state Oct. 3, 2013.
Gabrielle Paluch
The Burmese government continues to reject reports that at least 24 people were killed in a violent incident involving ethnic minority Rohingyas in the country’s remote northwest earlier this month. Rights groups and news agencies have reported scores of Rohingya died in a crackdown by security forces that drew concern from the U.S. Embassy.

Details remain unclear about an incident that occurred in the early morning hours of January 14. Locals say they were unfairly targeted by security personnel, and then driven from their homes by a mob. But the government insists that a policeman was kidnapped by the villagers, and then likely killed.

Since then, rights groups have interviewed people who say as many as 60 people, nearly all of them ethnic Rohingya, died when security forces and ethnic Rakhine villagers retaliated for the kidnapping. The government says the Rohingya are alive but fled their village after the policeman’s death.

Government's version

Presidential spokesperson Ye Htut says villagers likely exaggerated the story because they were guilty of killing a police officer.

"Nobody except the police sergeant [are] missing from in that incident. That's why we are trying to recover the body and find the people who committed that crime.  No civilians from Rakhine or Bengali [Rohingya] are missing from that accident, because police refrained from firing in that mob and they only retreated from the village," said Ye Htut.

The U.S. and other foreign governments have urged Burmese authorities to investigate the alleged deaths and abuses of the villagers. Ye Htut says they plan to investigate the death of the police sergeant.

Local member of parliament Shwe Maung told VOA’s Burmese service that he has seen many conflicting reports about what happened, but some indicate that a violent incident and looting did occur. He says he has not been able to travel to the village itself, and is relying on reports from locals.

He says a group of villagers captured a police officer, U Aung Kyaw Thein, from a patrolling police group.  Then, they beat him and four other policemen escaped. At midnight, he says police came back to the village and searched for the police officer. The next day, a group of Rakhine villagers also came to that village and looted it.

AP says report accurate

The Associated Press and other news agencies reported multiple deaths in the incident. Burma’s Ministry of Information later disputed the AP story and said it fears false reports could fuel further violence.

The Associated Press issued a statement saying it believes the story was reported accurately. It also urged the government to allow better access to the region.

Like past reports of violence in remote parts of Burma’s Rakhine state, facts have been difficult to confirm because the government restricts access to outsiders.

Senior researcher on Burma for Human Rights Watch, David Mathieson, told reporters at a news conference in Bangkok Tuesday that the confusion over what happened is a direct result of the government’s policies.

"They've got a lot to hide. They've been hiding what they've been doing in Maundgaw and Buthitaung for decades," he said. "This is just another sad episode in what we know has been going on for 30 years. They basically lock down those townships and keep people there in such a miserable state that they will leave."

Mathieson says researchers are convinced that a violent clash did occur, but they still are working to determine what exactly happened and how many people died.

You May Like

N. Korea Sentences American to 6 Years Hard Labor

Matthew Miller's brief trial Sunday comes two weeks after 24-year old Miller and two other American detainees appealed to the US government to help free them More

Pakistan Rejects Afghan Criticism of 480-kilometer Border Trench

Military spokesman tells VOA the project is part of administrative and security measures taken to secure the mountainous border with Afghanistan More

Photogallery Typhoon Kalmaegi Makes Landfall in Philippines

Storm makes landfall late Sunday, cutting power and communications lines and forcing people to flee to higher ground More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interesti
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 12, 2014 8:35 PM
The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video Palestinians Turn to Rebuilding Gaza

After almost two months of conflict in Gaza, Palestinians are preparing to rebuild the isolated Mediterranean enclave with assistance from abroad. Meanwhile, an international human rights group has found that Israel likely violated international laws of war during some of its attacks on Gaza. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Middle Eastern Church Leaders Highlight Christians’ Plight

Patriarchs of Eastern Rite churches came to Washington this week to draw attention to the attacks against Christians in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. VOA’s religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid