Sittwe activists remember Arakan rice massacre

Aug 14, 2008 (DVB), At least one person was arrested in Sittwe on the 41st anniversary of the Arakan rice massacre on 13 August when activists ran amok with a spray-paint campaign, said local residents.

U Saw Hla Aung, who was one of the leaders of the 1967 rice riot when over 300 people were killed in the government’s brutal crackdown, was arrested at his house yesterday, according to one Sittwe resident.

"He was arrested by the police at his house in Mikhin ward , people think the authorities arrested him as a security measure taken to prevent political events from happening on the day," said the resident.

"Some activists put up posters and sprayed graffiti on walls , the messages were reminding us not to forget what happened on 13 August," he said.

"When that happened, I was only a second-year university student. Rice stores had been running low in the country since May , it was difficult to buy rice and university hostels could only feed us half the usual meal."

The resident said anti-government sentiment over the rice shortages had sparked the unrest.

"But it wasn’t actually because we couldn’t produce enough rice, but it was because the government did not calculate well and they decided to not to reduce the amount of rice exported to foreign countries," the resident said.

"The rice riots began in Sittwe after the public decided they would raid rice mills in the region and take what they could," he said.

"But they were shot by soldiers on their way to the rice mills and about 300 people died."

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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