A noise that sounded like a loud explosion alarmed residents of the Arakan State capital Sittwe on Sunday night, despite reassurances from local police that what they heard was nothing more than the sound of a backhoe hitting a hard surface while digging.
The sound, which originated from a construction site near Kandawgyi Lake, was heard across town. Sittwe’s police superintendent Khin Maung told DVB that police went to inspect the scene but found no evidence of anything unusual.
“It was nothing. They’re just spreading nonsense,” he said of local residents’ claims that they had heard an explosion. “We heard the noise and did a routine check at the scene and there was nothing.”
According to Khin Maung, six backhoes were being used to dig a reservoir on the site. “One of those backhoes must have hit a rock or something, and it sounded very loud because it was at night,” he said.
A local man named Kyaw Zan said that the sound sent residents into a panic because there had been two other unexplained explosions in the town in the past three months.
“The noise last night was quite loud. I was shocked. I thought something must have happened. We were afraid to go outside because we feared being arrested,” said Kyaw Zan.
“Whether it was a bomb or not, the authorities should explain what happened to ease our worries. Otherwise, we will continue to live in fear.”
Arakan State has been tense in recent months due to renewed fighting between government troops and the Arakan Army. However, the conflict has so far not affected the state capital.
Another source of concern is fear of violence stemming from communal tensions between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.
Most Rohingya in the region have been confined to displacement camps since their communities were destroyed by mob attacks that began in 2012.