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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora