RAKHINE – A Buddhist mob rampaged through a town in an isolated corner of Myanmar, hacking Muslim women and children with knives, a villager and a rights group reported, saying Friday that more than a dozen people may have been killed.
A government official said the situation was tense, but denied any deaths.
Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which has been documenting abuses against members of the Rohinyga Muslim minority for more than a decade, said on Thursday that the violence took place on Tuesday in Du Char Yar Tan, a village in western Rakhine state.
She said the death toll was not yet clear, but her sources indicated it could reach into the dozens.
That some of the victims appeared to have been stabbed with knives, not shot or beaten, “would clearly indicate the massacre was committed by (Buddhist) Rakhine villagers, rather than the police or army,” the Arakan Project wrote in a briefing on Thursday.
A resident who spoke on condition of anonymity, because he feared reprisals, said 17 women and five children died.
Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing said the situation was tense, but denied any deaths had occurred.
But Khin Maung Than, a Muslim who lives in a neighbouring village, said he visited Du Char Yar Tan and had seen no evidence of violence or deaths there.
A resident who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals said an initial flare-up followed the discovery of three bodies in a ditch near Du Char Yar Tan village by several firewood collectors.
Believing they were among a group of eight Rohingya who went missing after being detained by authorities days earlier, they alerted friends and neighbours who returned with their mobile phones to take pictures, said the man, who works as a volunteer English teacher.
That night, five police went to the village to confiscate the phones and check family lists, but the crowd turned on the officers, beating and chasing them off, he said. The police returned at 2am, saying one of their men had gone missing, he said. That triggered a security crackdown.
Soldiers and police surrounded the village, breaking down doors and looting livestock and other valuables, the English teacher said. Almost all the men fled, leaving the women, children and elderly behind, he said.
Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million people, has been grappling with sectarian violence for nearly two years. More than 240 people have been killed and another 140,000, mostly Muslims, forced to flee their homes.