About a dozen Arakanese villagers in Arakan state’s Kyauktaw township were detained by security forces on Saturday, which prompted a protest from locals demanding their release.
On 17 June, about 500 Arakanese residents in Kyauktaw gathered in a park in the town demanding the release of nine villagers from Nagaya village who were arrested the day before by Burmese Army troops following an arson attack in a nearby village largely populated by Muslims.
“Residents in Nagaya village previously formed a [militia] to protect the village and the monastery. Around 6pm on [Saturday] they were detained by the [Burmese Army’s Tactical Operations Command in the area],” said one of the protesters.
“We are demanding their release but the army is now ordering us via loudspeakers to disperse but that is not happening at all.”
According to the New Light of Myanmar: “Some firebugs set ablaze 12 homes in Apaukwa village in Kyauktaw Township in Rakhine State,which accommodate no people yesterday noon [sic].”
According to the report 12 homes were damaged in the attack.
“The local authorities, security forces and people who do not want violence are trying to capture the attack-and-run fire-raisers [sic] as soon as possible,” reported the state newspaper.
On 9 June, authorities in Maungtaw declared a curfew in the town under article-144 of the Penal Code, which prohibits the gathering of five or more people in the streets between 6pm and 6am.
This move was followed by President Thein Sein’s installation of emergency rule in Arakan state the next day for an indefinite period of time.
The protesters accused the army of failing to protect ethnic Arakan residents in the region.
“What are we, the Arakanese people, supposed to do? Do we have to be afraid of the army? Aren’t they supposed to protect us?” asked the protester.
Meanwhile, Sittwe-based Rakhine Nationalities Development Party’s general secretary Hla Saw said his party was disappointed that authorities had arrested three of its members during a protest by an angry mob in front of the town’s police station earlier this month.
The mob gathered in response to a rumour that a member of the party had been kidnapped or killed by Muslims.
The protest on 3 June ended with a crackdown from the police, who used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd that had been throwing rocks at the police station.
State-media outlets reported that a dozen people were injured and nine arrested during the skirmish.
Hla Saw said his party’s members were at the scene to help mediate the situation.
“Among those arrested were one of our campaign organisers and we are disappointed about it – the police station’s commander said he has been sent to jail for stoning the station,” said Hla Saw.
At least 50 people have died and thousands of residents had their homes destroyed as rioting erupted in Arakan state this month.