Several women villagers from Myanmar's Rohingya minority were shot dead
this week in a confrontation with security officials, police and
activists said Wednesday.
A police officer in Mrauk-U township in western Rakhine state said three
women died in the clash Tuesday in Parein village. The women and others
were defying efforts to relocate them from the housing in which they
have been living since their original homes were burned by Buddhists in a
wave of sectarian clashes last year.
The officer from the Special Branch political police, who asked not to
be identified because he was not authorized to release information, said
six villagers were injured in the clash.
A website covering Rohingya news, Rohingya Blogger, said four women were
shot dead and five other villagers wounded in the confrontation, which
broke out when workers from another township came to unload wood to
build new dwellings. It said that when Parein villagers sought to stop
the unloading, they began quarreling with police, who opened fire on
The police officer said some in the Rohingya crowd carried knives, sticks and slingshots.
Several hundred people were killed and about 140,000 fled or lost their
homes in Rakhine last year in two waves of sectarian violence that
targeted mostly members of the Muslim Rohingya community. While the
conflict seemed contained at the time, communal violence spread this
year to central and northeastern Myanmar, with Muslims again targeted
and several dozen people killed.
The violence threatens to undermine the political and economic reforms
undertaken by President Thein Sein, who came to power as an elected
chief executive in 2011 after almost five decades of military rule.
The government's failure to effectively tackle the problem also risks
shaking the confidence of Western countries, which have rewarded Thein
Sein's reforms by lifting sanctions that were applied against the
previous repressive army regime.
The latest incident took place just ahead of a regional meeting of the
World Economic Forum in Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw. The meeting will
be attended by hundreds of business leaders and opinion-makers from
around the world and is meant to showcase the positive changes made
under the new government.
Similar, though not fatal, confrontations over relocation of Muslim
Rohingya were reported last month, when officials sought to move
reluctant residents from camps thought to be vulnerable to damage from
an expected cyclone. In the end, Cyclone Mahasen veered away from
Myanmar, causing no damage. But aid workers note that many of the camps,
almost all of which shelter Rohingya, have inadequate shelter, medical
care and other basic services.