Authorities in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state have revoked an order requiring Rakhine Buddhist families to vacate land in a former Rohingya Muslim area of Sittwe township that was razed eight years ago during a flare-up of sectarian violence.
The May 14 order was revoked on May 19, frustrating members of the Rohingya community originally displaced from their homes in Sittwe’s Seyton Su Muslim quarter, who called the rescinding of the order evicting thousands of squatters from their former land evidence of a lack of the rule of law in the conflict-torn region.
“This is a clear sign of the lack of law and order in Myanmar,” said Rohingya community leader Kyaw Hla Aung, who has been sheltering in Sittwe’s That Kahi Pyin village ever since a wave of brutal slayings and attacks across Rakhine in June 2012 that left more than 200 people dead and around 120,000 displaced.
Local government authorities should uphold the laws they themselves have issued, he said, adding, “If the government would only comply with existing laws, this would solve many problems.”
A Rakhine resident of Seyton Su meanwhile welcomed authorities’ decision to withdraw the order evicting Rakhine people from the disputed ward, now filled with structures illegally built by squatters moving from rural areas to Sittwe in search of work.
“We were all upset at the order issued by the government that all 1,255 shelters built here would have to be vacated, which we learned about from an RFA news broadcast on May 18,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“But the next day, we came across a notice posted at the administration office saying that the order had been revoked,” he said. “We are all very happy now.”
Ward official murdered
Meanwhile, a Seyton Su administrator was killed May 24 by unidentified assailants wearing masks who approached the ward official at around 8:00 a.m. while he was buying betel leaves and stabbed him to death before fleeing by motorcycle, sources said.
Thein Hlaing had posted the original eviction order on a ward notice board on May 14, and had received several threats by phone before he was killed, a family member told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“He only told us he had received threats. He didn’t say what they were about,” the family member said.
“His murder could be related to the issue of the eviction of the squatters. I don’t know this for sure, but I have concluded this is why he was killed,” he said.
Calls seeking comment from Rakhine state government spokespersons and Sittwe township administrators rang unanswered over the weekend and on Monday.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Richard Finney.