Police in western Myanmar’s volatile Rakhine state shot dead at least seven ethnic Rakhine protesters and wounded 13 others after members of the minority group marking a nationalist Buddhist anniversary tried to take over a local government building, sources said Wednesday.
More than 4,000 ethnic Rakhines had gathered in the town of Mrauk U Tuesday to take part in an annual event recognizing the end of the ancient ethnic kingdom 233 years earlier, Rakhine state government secretary Tin Maung Swe said, despite organizers having failed to obtain a permit.
Members of the crowd later protested at the site of the township’s government office, the secretary said, confronting officers and attempting to destroy property in the building, at which point police began to fire at them.
“The mob came into government office, tried to destroy property, and threw stones at the district administrator’s house,” Tin Maung Swe said.
“It was violence that hurt stability, and that’s why the police had to shoot at them to get them to disperse,” he said.
“The police tried to stop them with a warning by loudspeaker, shooting into the air, and then shooting at the crowd with rubber bullets, but the mob wouldn’t stop, and even tried to take the officers’ weapons. Because of this situation, the incident occurred. About 20 police were injured.”
Tin Maung Swe said authorities had launched an investigation into the shooting and would “take action according to law.”
It was not immediately clear why violence broke out at the event, but Agence France Presse quoted a police official as saying that the crowd was demanding the “sovereignty of Rakhine state.”
Rakhines who were present at Tuesday’s protest disputed the police account of the incident.
Full story: rfa.org
Reported by Min Thein Aung, Waiyan Moe Myint, Tin Aung Khine, Thinn Thiri, and Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036. http://www.rfa.org.