DEVELOPING: Rohingya Wary of Violence amid Rakhine Rebel Abuses and Media Propaganda
By Khaing Myat Lin | The Rohingya Post
Buthidaung, Arakan State — Rohingya Genocide survivors remaining in northern Arakan are extremely wary over looming violence amid ongoing abuses by Arakan Army (AA), a Rakhine rebel group controlling the region, and Rakhine media trying to spin an already tried ‘Buddhist-woman-raped-by-Muslim’ propaganda narrative once again which, the survivors fear, could stoke violence against them as in June 2012, reliable sources say.
It has been reported that members of AA have been abducting local Rohingya survivors in Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Kyauktaw Townships under different allegations for ransom since they started operation in northern Arakan.
On May 12 night, members of AA abducted two Rohingya survivors both in their 40s (identities withheld for safety) after accusing them of collaborating with Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya rebel group. On the same night, about 20 AA rebels broke into the house of ‘Dil Mohammed’ from Pharun Chaung in Buthidaung in order to look for him. His house plundered and vandalized as he wasn’t found in the house. The reason behind the raid has been unknown.
“First when they were fighting the Myanmar military, they were abducting our people calling them collaborators of the Myanmar military. They would torture them and release them after extortion money. They also coax our youths into smuggling methamphetamine locally known as WY tablets especially in Kyauktaw region.
“Before, they would accuse some of our people of collaborating with the Myanmar military and abduct them. Now, they are being abducted under the accusation of being collaborators of ARSA, owing money to Rakhines and stealing cattle belong to them. For any person missing in Rakhine community or anything happens to them, our people are blamed for that,” said a local Rohingya survivor on the condition of anonymity.
However, since coup d’état staged by the military chief Min Aung Hlaing and Myanmar people have been rising up against the military dictatorship, AA and Myanmar military have stopped fighting in Arakan State. Then imprisoned Rakhine extremist political leaders like Dr. Aye Maung along with his other accomplices was released. Since then, the attitude of Rakhines towards Rohingyas — which seemed to have improved during the fighting between AA and Myanmar military – has worsened.
On the other hand, Rakhine media outlets such as Development Media Group (DMG) and Narinjara News Agency have started to spin yet another propaganda of a Rohingya man raping a Buddhist woman in Buthidaung Township on May 20 morning. Both media outlets reported an account of alleged rape of Buddhist woman, a report which seemed factually inconsistent, using highly racially sensitive slurs like ‘Muslim’ ‘Kular’ man.
Propaganda of raping and killing of a Rakhine Buddhist woman named ‘Ma Thida Htwe’ was spread in late May 2012 and it was used by Rakhine extremist political leaders and their supporters and Myanmar State which ultimately led to full-blown Genocide against the Rohingya and Kaman people of Arakan in June 2012 and afterwards. Now that a similar spin of Buddhist-woman-raped-by-Muslim-man is being attempted again, the remaining Rohingya Genocide survivors in northern Arakan state remain extremely wary of possible violence in the near future.
“Some Rakhines are even taunting us now. They were saying things like ‘you guys better watch out’. And I believe any violence against us here again would favor the Min Aung Hlaing’s military to have a longer lifespan” said a local of Maungdaw.
Meanwhile, after Myanmar mainland has descended into chaos and AA has taken control of northern Arakan state since February this year, some Rohingya villages in Buthidaung and Rathedaung have been facing acute shortage of food and medical supplies as hardly are any humanitarian agencies getting access to these regions.
[Edited by M.S. Anwar]