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Myanmar detains Rohingya community leader

MP says charges against Kyaw Hla Aung are bogus

  • Daniel Wynn, Yangon
  • Myanmar
  • July 16, 2013
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A prominent Rohingya lawyer and community leader in western Myanmar was arrested yesterday on suspicion of provoking public unrest in the region, which has been hit by several waves of violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities over the past year.

Police in the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe confirmed the arrest of Kyaw Hla Aung on Monday afternoon at a Rohingya refugee camp outside the town.

Police officer Maung Maung Than said today that an interrogation is underway but did not explain the details of the allegations.

Kyaw Hla Aung, 73, worked as the administrator for the Netherlands-based AZG International NGO’s Rakhine branch until the deadly clashes between majority Buddhist Rakhine and miniority Rohingya broke out in the middle of last year.

This is the second time he has been detained, having been arrested in the immediate aftermath of the June violence, also on charges of inciting public unrest, but later released.

Shwe Maung, a Rohingya MP from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, said this arrest followed that of Kyaw Hla Aung, also a Rohingya community leader at the Thekalbyin refugee camp, who was detained on the same charges.

He said it was apparently related to a controversial family registration process administered by the local immigration and police forces.

Some scuffles had broken out in April between the authorities and the Rohingya refugees who refused to be identified as “Bengalis” in the registration forms, Shwe Maung said. The Rohingya community believes the term suggests they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, an excuse the government uses to deny them citizenship.  

“Kyaw Myint was not involved in any confrontation with the police. He was talking with an immigration officer when the incident broke out. He was totally innocent,” he said. “I think the latest arrest of Kyaw Hla Aung is a similar case.”

Kyaw Hla Aung’s arrest came on the same day that President Thein Sein pledged to release all political prisoners by the end of the year. Thein Sein is currently in the UK, where he held talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Myanmar government has been known in the past to use trumped up charges to detain opposition activists.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in New York last week expressed concern over the plight of the Rohingya and called on the Myanmar government to consider granting them citizenship.

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