Sittwe police fire warning shots in Rakhine as mob attacks aid boat


YANGON — Police in Sittwe fired warning shots to disperse a mob who threw petrol bombs at them and tried to block the departure of a Red Cross boat, state media said Thursday.

Communal tensions remain sky high across Rakhine State where raids by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army at the end of last month sparked a massive army crackdown and an unprecedented exodus of the Rohingya community which the UN has called “ethnic cleansing”.

Stranded after their villages burned to the ground, many Rohingya left inside Rakhine are in especially desperate need of aid.

The zone worst-hit by communal violence remains under a virtual army lockdown, although authorities have promised to allow safe passage for relief.

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Aid is an incendiary issue in Rakhine, which is poor and scored by ethnic and religious hatred.

Ethnic Rakhine believe foreign aid agencies ignore their needs and are biased towards the Rohingya — a minority denied citizenship in Myanmar and branded ‘Bengali’ outsiders.

A 300-strong mob in the Buddhist-majority state capital Sittwe massed late Wednesday at a jetty where a boat — carrying 50 tonnes relief materials including clothes, water buckets and mosquito nets — was preparing for the journey up river into Maungdaw.

They forced the International Committee of the Red Cross to “unload the aid from the boat and prevented the boat from leaving,” the Global New Light of Myanmar reported Thursday, quoting Myanmar’s Information Committee.

Police officers arrived as the crowd grew near the jetty, while Buddhist monks also tried to calm the mob, but people began to hurl “stones and Molotov (cocktails) at the riot police” the report said.

Eight people were detained and several police were injured before order was restored late at night.

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