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The Rakhine State government has offered financial assistance of 500,000 kyats ($370) to each of the families of seven people who were killed during a police crackdown on a protest in Mrauk-U Township, Rakhine State, earlier this week.
Officials from the Rakhine State cabinet and local administrators gathered at the meeting hall of the Mrauk-U district administration office to provide the compensation to the families of the victims on Thursday morning, according to the state-run newspaper Kyemon.
Tin Maung Swe, the Rakhine State cabinet secretary, provided the lump sum of 3.5 million kyats to local administrator Aung Thein, who later distributed the money to the victims’ families.
The lethal crackdown by police in Mrauk-U on Tuesday evening came after authorities refused to allow a ceremony marking the fall of the Arakan kingdom more than 200 years ago. A crowd of thousands of ethnic Rakhine descended on the Mrauk-U District General Administration Office to protest the authorities’ decision, and the situation devolved into what the government has described as a “riot.”
Local authorities reportedly ordered the protesters to disperse, but they did not comply and threw stones instead. Police fired warning shots in an unsuccessful attempt to clear the protesters before, apparently, training their guns on the crowd.
In addition to the seven dead, 12 other protesters were injured, as well as 20 police officers.
According to a report in state media, “a case has been opened and an investigation will be launched during which it will be determined whether the procedures used to try and control the protesters were in compliance with the law.”
The report, in Thursday’s state-run Global New Light of Myanmar, continued: “Authorities said they will investigate the incident and action will be taken against those who instigated the rioting.”
The international advocacy groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both decried what they described as excess use of force by police in their handling of the Mrauk-U unrest.
“These shocking killings are yet another example of Myanmar security forces’ contempt for human life,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “Even if protesters were throwing stones and bricks, nothing can justify police apparently firing into a crowd of thousands. This is a clear case of excessive use of force in violation of the right to life.”
Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, along with the United Nations, called for accountability and a probe into the killings.
“We urge authorities to investigate any disproportionate use of force or other illegal actions that may have occurred in relation to this incident,” read a statement on Wednesday from the UN country team in Burma.