Rakhine Chief Minister Nyi Pu has said that he is ready to defend himself against accusations that he failed to prevent a police crackdown in Mrauk-U last week, when seven unarmed protesters were killed.
“I am responsible for situations that develop in Rakhine State, and for that reason I am held accountable,” he told reporters. “I am trying my very best to fulfill my duties and I pledge to continue doing so. I am ready to face any allegations that I have failed to perform my duties or acted with misconduct.”
Nyi Pu was speaking yesterday in state capital Sittwe after a meeting with local civil society organizations regarding the Mrauk-U crackdown.
The Burmese government has confirmed that seven protesters were killed, while another 12 civilians and 20 police officers were injured during what it called “a riot” on 16 January.
Several thousand people had marched to the township administrator’s office protesting a decision by local authorities to prohibit a commemoration ceremony for the 233rd anniversary of the fall of the Arakan kingdom.
The Mrauk-U police station said local authorities ordered the protesters to disperse, but they did not comply and threw stones instead. Police fired warning shots to clear the protesters before, apparently, training their guns on the crowd.
Two days later, outspoken Rakhine nationalist politician Aye Maung was arrested and will face criminal prosecution after he gave a speech in which, according to state media, he “urged the people to take advantage of the weakness of the government and to march towards the goal of sovereignty.”
The increased tensions come at a time when both Burma and Bangladesh are purportedly preparing for the repatriation of more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees to northern Rakhine State.
A senior Bangladeshi official announced yesterday that the first repatriation of refugees to Burma, scheduled to begin today, had been delayed.
Many Rohingya refugees are opposing their transfer back to Burma due to a lack of security guarantees.