Rohingya Muslim Mob Attacks Villagers in Northern Rakhine

A Rohingya Muslim mob attacked and injured two ethnic Rakhine residents of Thaye Koneboung village in Myanmar’s conflict-torn northern Rakhine state on Thursday, the latest bout of violence amid growing tension between Buddhist and Muslim communities in the ethnically and religiously divided state.

About 30 Rohingya attacked the men with knives and sticks in the village in Maungdaw township, said Tin Aung, administrator of Thaye Koneboung village. His account could not be independently verified in a conflict zone under tight army control.

“We don’t know why they approached and attacked these villagers,” he said. “Local witnesses said only four people attacked them, though the rest were standing around.”

One of the injured was taken to the hospital, he said.

The incident is further proof that trust has been lost between the two communities and people are still provoking each other, he said.

Aung Than Tin, a resident of Thaye Koneboung village said those injured were part of a seven-member group who had left the area to go fishing.

“The attackers spoke their own language, and villagers couldn’t understand them,” he said. “As these Muslims attacked them, the villagers ran away, but two people were injured.”

The villagers filed a report at their local police station as well as at Myoma Police Station in Maungdaw, he said.

A deadly attack by a Muslim militant group on 30 police outposts and an army facility on Aug. 25 sparked a military crackdown in the northern Rakhine townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung.

The operation caused more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslim residents to flee to safety in neighboring Bangladesh where some have accused soldiers of indiscriminate killing, arson, torture, and rape.

The Myanmar government has denied the accusations.

About 30,000 Hindus and other non-Muslims living in northern Rakhine fled south amid the crackdown and subsequent communal attacks in which Muslim militants raided villages and in some cases killed the residents.

Thousands of Rohingya are still passing through Maungdaw en route to Bangladesh.

“Local villagers are getting worried because more than 10,000 Muslims coming from other places are staying in this area waiting to go to Bangladesh,” Aung Than Tin said.

“We have had the same provocations from Muslims in the past because they were a majority in our area, and just a few local ethnic [Rakhine] people lived here,” he said. “But the Muslims who we had problems with already fled to Bangladesh, and these people are newcomers from other areas.”

Security guards have been deployed in the village to protect non-Muslim residents, he said.

Unexpected visit

The attack comes a day after State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi paid an unexpected visit to Maungdaw township where she met with members of both ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya communities. It was her first foray in the state following the deadly August attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and previous smaller-scale attacks by the same group in October 2016.

The Nobel laureate has come under fire by the international community for not speaking out about the treatment of the Rohingya in what the United Nations and others call “ethnic cleansing” in the region — an allegation Myanmar has rejected.

In the meantime, Myanmar and Bangladesh are working on a plan to repatriate some of the 600,000 Rohingya who fled during the most recent military crackdown in northern Rakhine.

Earlier this week, the Myanmar government blamed Bangladesh for stalling on some points of a 1993 repatriation agreement between the two countries that would allow Rohingya who can prove residency to return to the country. Bangladesh officials have denied the charge.

Reported by Min Thein Aung and Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin