Thursday, March 27, 2014

Malteser In Sittwe Attacked After Buddhist Flag Desecrated

Two Malteser staffers confronting the Buddhist crowd.
Violent mass riots broke out at Sittwe the capital of Burma's troubled Arakan State on March-26 after the disturbing news came out that an American female staffer from Malteser-International the Christian INGO working among the Bengali-Muslim refugees had desecrated a Buddhist flag by taking it down from the flag-pole and wearing it like a skirt and then discarding it.

Burmese Security-Police had to fire multiple times high into air to warn and also at the crowd to disperse the more-than-5000-strong crowd as angry Yakhine-Buddhist locals surrounded all three Malteser-International offices in Sittwe.

“Lone-Htains (Securtiy-Police) are firing Automatics into the air. I heard at least 30 rounds. But it is quiet now, I think,”  said alarmingly Myat Htun who was visiting Sittwe and staying at a house near one of the Malteser-International offices.

He added that the angry crowd started surrounding the Malteser-International offices one after another and finally the Security-Police had to fire at them at about 11 pm when the crowd got out of control and entered the offices and destroying stuff.

“At the beginning they just threw rocks at the NGO offices. The Malteser Office on Bouttheezuu’s Minbargyi Street, the Panthar House Office on U Oattama Street, and the office on Kyaungtet Street. All got stoned. Only later when they tried to enter the offices to destroy the Lone-Htains (Security-Police) fired warning shots,” added Myat Htun our witness.

Malteser works among Bengalis.
When it started at about 5 in the late afternoon the Buddhist monks and local elders and Police had managed to calm down the gathering crowd by telling them that the American offender will be prosecuted and they should not take law into their hands. But later the crowd reached more than five thousands and the situation dangerously got out of control.

This was the comments by the Sittwe Police Station’s Chief who was at the incident site well before multiple warning shots were fired as the crowd got out of control and situations became extremely dangerous.

“This is just the rough news. We are not able to check if it is true at this time. Some people claimed that they saw one Yvonne Dunton the American woman working at Boutheezuu’s Malteser Office took down the Buddhist flag put up by their Yakhine-Buddhist landlord and wore it as a Hta-mein (Burmese skirt) and then threw it off. Once people heard the news or rumours the crowd surrounded all three Malteser officers and troubles started.”

According to the eyewitnesses the female American offender had escaped from the angry crowd by fleeing on a bicycle and never been seen again since then. The Buddhist flag involved was put up -- as part of the mass-defiance campaign of Buddhist-flag-raising in whole Arakan against coming April Burma Census supposedly counting illegal Bengali-Muslims as Rohingyas -- by the Yakhine-Buddhist landlord of the Bouttheezuu-Ward Malteser-International office. 

Ms. Dunton
According to some locals Ms. Yvonne Dunton the Malteser-International program coordinator in Sittwe had strongly objected to her landlord flying a Buddhist flag right in front of her office and then angrily took down the Buddhist-flag herself but her actions were exaggerated and quickly rumored around as a Turkish-Muslim woman's serious desecration of the Buddhist-flag and that started the riots by angry Yakhine-Buddhists.

There were some serious casualties from Security-Police’s stern action but details are not available yet from the police. The existing midnight curfew from 12-to-4 in Sittwe has been extended indefinitely by the local administration to Dusk-to-Dawn 6-to-6.

But the attacks on Malteser-International still expanded next day on March 27 to a general attack on UN and all other foreign INGOs believed by most Yakhine-Buddhists as involving in a large conspiracy to either Islamize whole Arakan or breaking away Benhali-Muslim dominated Northern-Arakan into Bangladesh. UN is now rapidly evacuating all its personnel and other foreign INGO staffers out of Arakan.

Police line defending Bouttheezuu Ward's Malteser-International office in Sittwe.
Aftermath of the riots against Malteser-International offices in Sittwe of Burma's Arakan.
One young Yakhine-Buddhist girl shot to dead by Burmese Security-Police in Sittwe.
Burmese flag and Buddhist flags flying together on Irrawaddy Bank in Sittwe.
Police guarding Kyaungtetlan-Ward Malteser-International office in Sittwe.
13-Year-old Yakhine-Buddhist girl "Ni Ma" killed by a stray bullet from Police shootings.
Evacuated foreign staffers of Malteser and other INGOs in Sittwe at Rangoon Airport.
(Malteser-International Spokesperson Johannes Kaltenbach interview)
                                       (Malteser-International Staffer Yvonne Dunton interview)

Related posts at following links:
MSF-Holland Clinics Shut Down By Burmese Government
Bangladesh Calling for Referendum in Northern-Arakan to Secede from Burma