DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:15 AM) – Police have opened fire on Buddhist radicals who tried to take over government property in the Rakhine State on Tuesday.
A group of around 5,000 Buddhist protestors had reportedly gathered in the town of Mrauk U, in the northwestern Rakhine province of Myanmar, to celebrate a nationalist ceremony. Rakhine State is known for its nationalist tendencies and often for its animosity towards other ethnicities in the country.
According to police sources, the violence was instigated by the rally itself, when rioters started barging into a government administrative office and attacking police officers, calling for the “sovereignty of Rakhine”.
“Security forces asked them to disperse and fired warning shots with rubber bullets… but they didn’t stop, so police had to use real bullets,” police spokesman Colonel Myo Soe said in an interview to AFP, adding that seven people were killed in the ensuing violence, and thirteen more rioters were wounded. 20 police officers were also injured.
“The situation is under control now. Security is being deployed in the town at this moment,” the Colonel added.
Mrauk U had so far been spared from the violence that swept Rakhine since late 2016, perpetrated by army forces and extremist Buddhist gangs against the minority Rohingya population and Muslims in the province. Ever since the violence flared up even more in late August of 2017, thousands of Rohingya have reportedly been killed since the violence started, with over half a million more fleeing the country and finding refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.
While there is no further information about the reason for the sudden unrest in Mrauk U, the violent rally took place on the very same day the Myanmar government had finally reached an agreement with Bangladesh in which it promised to allow all Rohingya to return to Rakhine within two years time. It is possible that the violence came in reaction to this news.
For decades, violent supremacist and anti-islamic organisations like the 969 Movement, have been trying to influence Myanmarese politics, often by direct acts of violence against Rohingya Muslims, who they consider to be outsiders “belonging” in Bangladesh.