Shwe Maung, a Rohingya MP in Burma’s Lower House who represents Buthidaung constituency, has said that local Maungdaw police were involved in the fire that ripped through the west tract of Duchira Dan village on 28 January, razing between 16 and 22 homes belonging to Rohingya families.
Speaking exclusively to DVB on Thursday, Shwe Maung said that until the day before the fire, local Rohingya men were assigned as lookouts to guard the three village tracts since most of the residents living there were women.
“On Tuesday [28 January] afternoon, the locals were informed that the police would take over guard duty at Duchira Dan-West and so the Rohingya lookouts only had to patrol the Middle and East tracts,” he said. “That evening, the houses in Duchira Dan-West were burnt down. To reiterate, it happened after the police took over guard duty of that part of the village.”
The MP for Buthidaung, which neighbours Maungdaw Township, said the fire broke out in one house at 8:45pm, but quickly spread to other homes while the police watched.
“Since the village was under police guard, there would have been no opportunity for any outsider to enter the village to start the fire,” he continued. “If anyone had tried, they would have been caught by the police.
“Also, I have solid information from locals in nearby villages who phoned me and said they saw the police setting the houses on fire.”
Shwe Maung said that as the fire raged, the police prevented locals from trying to put it out.
“So even if the police did not set the houses on fire themselves, they are still responsible and were complicit in the incident.”
However, the local Maungdaw police supervisor, Pol-Brig Tin Ko Ko of the 4th Battalion, has refuted the allegations. He told DVB TV on Wednesday that he assumes the blaze was started as “an attempt to politically discredit the government.”
He was backed up by Hla Thein, the chairman of the Arakan State Government Information Sub-Committee.
Speaking to DVB on Wednesday, Hla Thein said, “There are no Arakanese [Buddhist] villages in the area. The fire broke out at three different places in the village and there were several houses with their doors locked and no one inside. The fire brigade assumes it was arson.”
He further said that none of the [Rohingya/ Bengali] residents in the village tried to suppress the fire and “so it must be assumed they started the fire themselves before fleeing the village.”
The Arakan State official said that 16 houses were burnt down by the fire, and that the cost of destruction is estimated at only 1.6 million kyat (US$1,600) because the houses involved were old.
Duchira Dan [also written Du Char Yar Tan] is the same village in restive northern Arakan State where it is alleged that a policeman was abducted on 13 January by a mob of Rohingya Muslims. The UN says it has credible evidence that, subsequently, a retaliatory attack against Rohingya villagers in the east side of the village left dozens dead.
The UN and other members of the international community have since called for an independent and transparent investigation into the incidents, however on Tuesday Burma’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin announced at a diplomatic briefing in Rangoon that a presidential order was to be implemented for a local investigation into the alleged killings which would include separate probes and field trips by: the Central Committee for Peace Stability and Development of Rakhine [Arakan] State; the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission; and the Rakhine Conflict Investigation Commission.