It is indeed a matter of serious concern that Arakan north remain as dangerous as ever, courtesy of the persistent harassments being perpetrated by the Burma’s border security force (Nasaka), army, despite a number of changes in Burma after elections in November 2010.
According to reports in the last few days, the situation in north Arakan appears to have worsened. For instances, from January 19 to 21 (within three days) the Nasaka arrested 20 villagers from Kawarbill village of Maungdaw Township while going to forest to collect firewood and are being detained in Nasaka headquarters of Kawarbill (Kyigan Pyin). They were arrested by the Nasaka of Nasaka headquarters because some of villagers gave complaints to the Parliament members about the Nasaka’s harassments when the parliament members held a meeting inviting local villagers at Kawarbill village on January 12.
Presently, Nasaka seriously restricts the movement of Rohingya people, increases in night sentry at villages and taking huge amount to give permission to build or renovate houses. Besides, the Nasaka specially creates a new chapter of black list of Rohingya kids. All these were made after giving speech on January 12 in public meetings held in Maungdaw north by U Aung Zaw Win and U Htay Win, the upper house and lower house parliament members respectively. The two MPs are the members of Union Solitary and Development party (USDP).
The parliament members are U Aung Zaw Win (Upper Parliament member) and U Htay Win (Lower Parliament member), both are from Union Solidarity and Development Party and arrived at Maungdaw on January 9, from Rangoon. In the meeting, the parliament members asked to the participants to appraise any difficulty they have been facing in their villages. Getting this opportunity, some of the villagers appraised the harassments of Nasaka against the Rohingya community. This made Nasaka very angry and tried to take revenge on the villagers whenever they got a chance. As a result, they arrested 20 villagers while going to forest for firewood collection and brought to the Nasaka headquarters where they were detained. After that they asked the arrestees to come back the said parliament members from Rangoon to release them. The parliament members are assaulted by them.
The arrestees are not fed from the camp and the relatives of the victims have to pay Kyat 2,000 per head everyday for their food, moreover, they paid extra Kyat 20,000 per each for excluding from torture.
On January 24, a group of Nsaka from Nari Bill out-post camp went to the house of Mohamed Sidique (60), son of Oli Ahmed, hailed from Nari Bill west village of Maungdaw Township and took away 100 bamboos from his house without giving any allegation. The current value is about Kyat 40,000 per 100 bamboos. He bought it from Bawli Bazar for his house’s renovation and had already paid Kyat 3,000 tax to the concerned authority. He has not committed any fault. The Nasaka is doing against the Rohingya community as they like because there is no action against the culprits, but they are rewarded.
So far, the Nasaka and army are taking forced labor from villagers and force them— to carry water for their kitchen, collect firewood from nearby forest, clean their latrines, grow paddy and vegetables in their compound, build camp and renovate the houses in the camp and to cut bamboos from the forest, etc. They also force the villagers to give night sentry at their own village. It makes them very difficult to the villagers.
If a villager wants to go from one place to another, he/she will pay Kyat 500 to the Nasaka whether it has documents or not from the concerned authority.
Since January 21, the Nasaka personnel of Nasaka area No.6 of Maungdaw Township have been trying to arrest Maulana Ismail (40), hailed from Paung Zaar village of Maungdaw Township as he had appraised the Nasaka’s harassments in the said meeting which was held on January 12. The Nasaka is moreover trying to arrest other villagers who gave complaints against the Nasaka in the meeting which was held by the parliament members in Maungdaw north.
President Thein Sein has introduced a series of political and economic reforms. He has announced cease-fires with armed ethnic minorities that have been fighting the government for decades. Many groups have reached a truce with the government, while others are in negotiations. He has also relieved restrictions on the media, and a significant number of political prisoners were released in recent months.
We believe that the government only wants in order to get recognition from the international community by showing they are working towards peace in the country. The main thing the government needs to change is the 2008 constitution because the military has able to take all the main positions in the government. It is also required to release all political prisoners, freedom of the press and freedom of movement.
Last year, the USDP members and Nasaka Director gave assurance on stopping harassment’s against the Rohingya community in north Arakan. But, so far, there are so many forced labors, restriction of movements, restriction of marriage and arbitrary extortion. On one side they have a cease-fire, while on the other side there is brutality practiced against minorities.
Nasaka has now resorted to medieval (AD 1100-1500) forms of harassment’s against the Rohingya community. The bigger question now is whether the ongoing trend of reform can bring a durable peace and stability to the country.