Two Arakanese men have been convicted of murder in connection with sectarian violence in Mrauk-U in October 2012. Both men were dealt 10-year sentences with labour by a Sittwe district court on 9 December.
Than Lwin and Kyaw Khine were arrested for their involvement in riots in Mrauk-U’s Yin Thei village on 23 October 2012, when a second bout of violence broke out between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma’s western Arakan state. Human Rights Watch later revealed that the day-long massacre in Yin Thei claimed the lives of 70 Muslims, including 28 children.
The incident was part of a rash of violence that began in June 2012, when the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman aggravated existing tensions between Arakan’s Buddhist and Muslim populations. The ensuing communal conflict has overwhelmingly affected stateless Rohingya Muslims, but has since spread to other areas of Burma and triggered clashes among other ethnicities.
Government figures say that 200 people died in the conflict last year, but many rights groups and researchers have argued that this number is a severe underestimate, one which also does not account for the estimated 200,000 refugees forced to flee their homes after the conflict.
The two men and 13 other defendants were represented by lawyer Aye Nu Sein, who said that they plan to appeal the charges in a higher court. Of her 15 clients, three were sentenced on Monday.
“Than Lwin and Kyaw Hlaing were sentenced to 10 years each in prison with labour. Another one, Saw Phyu, was sentenced to two years for rioting,” said Aye Nu Sein.
According to government data, 1,189 people, including 260 Buddhists and 882 Rohingya Muslims, have been detained for their role in the unrest, and verdicts have been passed on 195 cases.
Last week, DVB reported that 11 Arakanese men were released on bail after being charged for their involvement in a similar incident that occurred in Sandoway [Thandwe] on 29 September 2013, the latest of Arakan’s communal clashes, which left at least five dead and about 120 families homeless.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced on Tuesday that it was co-hosting with the Burmese police force in Sittwe a four-day seminar on international policing standards and the exercise of police powers. This is the first such seminar for police officers at Rakhine state level, ICRC said.