The Burmese foreign ministry “strongly rejects the accusations made by some quarters that abuses and excessive use of force were made by the authorities” in dealing with the unrest in Rakhine State, it said in a statement issued on Monday.
“The unfortunate incidents are confined to a few townships in Rakhine State [and] it constitutes inter-communal violence relating only to some portion of the population in the State,” said the statement.
“The government has exercised maximum restraint in order to restore law and order in those particular places in Rakhine State,” it said.
“Peace and stability is indispensable for the on-going democratization and reform process in Myanmar. National solidarity and racial harmony among different nationalities is vital for the perpetuation of the Union,” it said. “Myanmar is a multi-religious country where Buddhists, Christian, Muslims and Hindus have been living together in peace and harmony for centuries. Hence, those recent incidents occurred in the Rakhine State are neither because of religious oppression nor discrimination.”
Widespread violence was touched off following the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman by three young men on May 28.
It said the assault set off “the subsequent killing of 10 persons in a passenger bus in Taungup Township on June 3. In the two cases, the first victim was a Rakhine Buddhist female and the latter case, victims were Muslim males.”
“Following the two incidents, riots broke out in Sittway, Maungtaw and Buthidaung townships where rioters torched and destroyed houses, shops and guest houses and committed killings. Because of the riots, 77 people from both communities lost their lives and 109 people were injured. A total of 4,822 houses, 17 mosques, 15 monasteries, 3 schools were burnt down,” said the statement.
Recounting the steps taken by officials, the statement said the government has taken necessary measures to stop the spread of violence and to restore peace, and “the people have been informed of the situation with full transparency.”
An investigation committee chaired by the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs was formed on June 6.
On June 11, President Thein Sein delivered a statement to the nation concerning the incidents in Rakhine State, in which he “appealed to the people of Myanmar to cooperate and work together with the government and requested all to realize every aspect of the situation with magnanimity and promised that the government would attach great importance to the rule of law.”
The president declared a State of Emergency in Rakhine State to stop the violence and restore law and order on June 12.
“In reviewing the incidents in Rakhine State, it is found that lawlessness was spread due to mistrust and religious differences that had created hatred and vengeance against one another,” said the statement. “As the victims of violence are both from Buddhist and Muslim communities, it is very clear that the riots are not linked to religious persecution. Myanmar is a multi-racial and multi- religious country where people of different faiths have lived together in peace and harmony.”
Cabinet members and officials of the Union and state governments and representatives of various civil societies have visited the riot affected areas and engaged in resettlement, rehabilitation and distribution of aid to people in the relief camps, it said.
“The government took legal actions against the perpetrators of the criminal acts. At the same time the government is taking measures under existing laws and rules to make sure such phenomena and incident do not happen again,” it said.
The government has built 89 relief camps for a total of 14,328 Rakhines and 30,740 Muslims who were affected by the violence.
“People sheltered in those relief camps are gradually returning to their places,” said the statement.
It said that as part of the reconstruction of houses which were burned down in Maungtaw and villages in Maungtaw Township, the Ministry of Border Affairs will build 202 houses, the UNHCR will build 222 and the CARE Myanmar, an INGO, will build 128 houses.
UNHCR has sent 400 tents so far for the refugees in Maungtaw Township. In order to provide shelters in Sittway and villages in Sittway Township, the Rakhine State government has pledged to donate 170 temporary tents while UN agencies and INGOs led by UNHCR will donate 600, it said.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has spent around US$ 600,000 on providing dry provisions to refugee camps and so far a total of 1,515 tons of provisions have been sent to the camps. Over 2,100 tons of provisions have already been stored at the warehouses of WFP.
UNHCR and INGOs have already provided 6,818 sets of different kinds of household utensils and 2,412 sheets of tarpaulin to the refugees in Rakhine State, it said. Cash and material worth more than 3 billion kyat for relief and rehabilitation for the victims of both sides have been received from donors within the country and abroad.
“The authorities have taken necessary measures with great care and with magnanimity. The government is cooperating with religious and community leaders, political parties and social organizations to resolve the issue. The overall situation is now returning to normalcy,” said the statement.