Interview With Rohingyas on the Arakan Conflict

4 July 2012 3:00PM MMT


Yangon – On June 28, MMSY interviewed three Rohingyas whose families live in Sittwe, Western Myanmar. We learned that both Rakhines and Rohingyas suffer from beatings, murders and lost of properties. We also learned that the government’s arresting educated Rohingyas and cutting communication channels have hidden information about Rohingyas’ real suffering.

For security reasons, we have omitted the interviewees’ names as well as locations and names they mentioned.

MMSY: Where do your sisters’ families live?

Person A: They live in a rural area 50 kilometers away from Sittwe.

MMSY: Where? Did you mention Nazi Village?

Person A: Yes, I’m from Nazi Village and all my sisters are also from Nazi village.

MMSY: I see. We learned that Nazi village mobbed. When was it?

Person A: On 13th.  On June 13th and 14th, they torched our quarter for two days.

MMSY: Who burnt your village? Na Sa Ka?

Person A: There is no Na Sa Ka (Border guards) in Sittwe. Na Sa Ka are only in Maungdaw and Buthidaung.

MMSY: I see.

Person A: Maungdaw and Buthidaung are 300 – 350 kilometers away from Sittwe and can only be travelled by boat or ship for about 7 hours. There is no bus/car route to Maungdaw and Buthidaung from Sittwe.

MMSY: So who burnt Nazi village?

Person A: Buddhist Rakhine people and Lone Htein (police).

MMSY: Did your sisters tell you how many people burnt your village and how?

Person A: At first, Buddhist Rakine people came to burn the mosque called Maracas Mosque. So our villagers tried to protect the mosque. At that time Lone Htein (police) came and shot our villagers. Five villagers died on the spot. Buddhist Rakine people entered the mosque from the back and burnt the mosque.

MMSY: After that?

Person A: Other villagers were coming to the mosque to try to save the villagers trapped inside the mosque. They were also shot by Lone Htein (police) near the mosque. At least ten more villagers died there.

MMSY: Do you know the dead people?

Person A: I don’t know them exactly but I heard the Buddhist Rakhine people who burnt the village are Dr. Aye Maung’s people. Dr. Aye Maung is the leader of Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP). He is originally from Bangladesh. He moved here 50 years ago. His parents are Bangladeshi Buddhists.

MMSY: Do you know Dr. Aye Maung personally?

Person A: I don’t know him. My relatives and my brother know him.

MMSY: Were any of your relatives killed or arrested?

Person A: No, not my relatives. But a lot of people from our quarter were killed. On the first day, 13 people were killed from our quarter. I don’t know how many people were killed on the second day.

MMSY: Anyone arrested?

Person A: No. No one was arrested but a lot are missing. Almost 1250 people are missing from our village.

MMSY: Where did you get this news from?

Person A: I got this news from my relatives, my brother, and sisters.

MMSY: How about your relatives, Ko xxx (Person B)?

Person B: Some of my relatives were arrested. My first cousin. She is my uncle’s daughter. Her name is (xxx). And then the other one is a medical doctor, (xxx). He is a good doctor and brother-in-law of my elder brother. One of my friends, his name is xxx was also arrested. Xxx is a private tutor.

Also, Daw Mya Nandar Aung and her husband were arrested in Yangon. Daw Mya Nandar Aung‘s husband used to be my classmate. Daw Mya Nandar Aung’s mom is Karan ethnic. Her father is a Rohingya.

At first the couple were questioned at the airport during their trip to Yangon because they were suspects. And then I heard they were arrested and charged with the Electronic Act at Minglar Taung Nyunt Township Police Station. A lawyer said they will be sentenced to 15 years in jail if they are found guilty.

My niece told me on the phone that many people were arrested. I could only name a few I know personally. I don’t know the names of the rest.

If you want to provide food for one person in jail, you have to pay 5,000 kyats to police. If you don’t pay money, police won’t allow you to deliver food to those arrested. Prisoners are not provided food in prison either. I heard some prominent people were moved to Sittwe prison.

Person C: In Buthidaung, all the people who owned computers were arrested. Those people were charged with the electronic act so that the government can prevent the spreading of the news to the outside world.

MMSY: We only get information that Rohingyas are suffering because of the riot. But there is no proof or any picture to see. Also we saw only a video footage. Is there any Rohingya who could take pictures and send messages in Arakan State?

Person B: No one can send a message because it is hard to get communication from the region.

Person A: It is impossible to send messages from Sittwe. There is no Internet service on mobiles. Also Muslims are not allowed to use the Internet. There are a few people who can use the Internet in Buthidaung and Maungdaw. Most of the information is sent from there.

Person B: One obvious thing is the fact that the Myanmar government doesn’t allow any international independent observer or monitor to investigate the problem. If the government is doing the right thing, why don’t they allow anyone to investigate? The only reason is that they want to cover up the truth.

MMSY: Why can’t Muslims use the Internet in Sittwe?

Person A: Muslims are not allowed to use the Internet at Internet cafes. There are three Internet cafes in Sittwe but they don’t allow Kalars to use [computers]. My family has a laptop but no Internet. No one knows about our computer. It is impossible to let anyone know. Otherwise, my family will be in trouble.

Person C: A few Rohingyas who look like Rakhines and speak Rakhine language as Rakhines could use Internet. But they are on the run and they don’t even have a place to stay. My aunt’s family, all family members are educated. They can speak Rakhine language fluently. Now they don’t have a place to live. Their house was burnt down. So they went to xxx village. And then they were forced to move to outside Sittwe by armed forces truck.

Person A: I know their relatives. Are they from xxx, aren’t they?

Person C: Yes

Person A: Some people from that village stay at one of my relatives’ place. My relative has a warehouse. They stay there. There are 500 people staying there.

MMSY:  How large is the warehouse?

Person A: Large. Pretty large, approximately 300 feet.

MMSY: All 500 are staying there?

Person A: Yes, all 500 people are staying there.

MMSY: Do you know the name of the Internet cafes from Sittwe?

Person A: I don’t know exactly.

Person C: Before, Rohingyas and Rakhines cannot be distinguished, also the way they look. But when problems started, they both stay separately.

MMSY: Is there anyone who entered from Bangladesh to get news?

Person C: No. No one could.

Person B: I heard that the border is closed.

Person C: If you want to pass the border, you are not allowed to go beyond four miles from the border. You are not allowed to go to the villages and you can only stay in town. You are allowed only a one- week stay. As soon as you pass the border gate, an official follows you. He will record all of your movements — where you went and with whom did you talk. That was my personal experience.

When you arrive at Maungdaw border gate from Taknaf, someone follows you.  Wherever you go, you will be followed. So it is impossible to try to get information. You are not allowed to stay at anyone’s house. You have to stay at a guest house. There are two guest houses in Maungdaw: United and the other one.  I forgot the name. I think United Guest House was already burnt down. The other thing is that no one dares to go out the place under Curfew and riot.

MMSY: Have you asked anyone from Sittwe why they could not send any pictures?

Person C: They are trying to survive themselves and to hide. How could they take pictures? Whenever I call my relatives, the first thing I hear on the phone is crying. Some — those who are able to talk well — could give me information. Before they talked to me, they asked if they could safely talk. They are afraid.

MMSY: So they can’t go out for food or other stuff either. If they all stay at home, do they have food?

Person C: No, they don’t have [food or other stuff]. My Aunt’s family has many Rakhine friends. No one helps them get food. When they asked someone for help, he said he could not help them and RNDP ordered Rakhines not to help Muslims. But they could get some food from soldiers.

MMSY:  Does that mean the soldiers send food for them and they don’t need to go out?

Person A: But they have to pay more than 2 – 3 times the original prices.

MMSY: So no one could go out?

Person A: No, not at all.

Person C: A child went out to buy food. They thought the child would not be killed. But he was killed.

Person A: A child was shot last Saturday.

MMSY: How old was he?

Person C: 12 years old.

MMSY: How much do they have to pay the soldiers for food?

Person A: A couple of household members asked a soldier to buy food and paid the soldier 3000 to 4000 kyats.

Person B: To deliver food for arrested people, you have to pay 5,000 kyat to authorities as delivery fee. .


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