A total of 61 people, among them both Kaman Muslims and Arakanese Buddhists, have been charged with various offenses, including murder, in relation to an outbreak of inter-communal violence in southern Arakan State’s Thandwe Township a month ago, according to a lawyer and a local resident.
Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1, seven people were reported killed and more than 100 homes were burned to the ground as Buddhist mobs attacked Muslim villages around the town of Thandwe. About 500 ethnic Kaman Muslims were forced to flee from their homes.
Lawyer Aye Nu Sein said the Thandwe Township Court has now brought charges against 34 Arakanese Buddhists.
She said she is defending 11 Arakanese Buddhists, including the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party’s township chairman, who were charged Thursday with obstruction of official duty and incitement under Burma’s penal code.
Another 23 Arakanese have been charged with setting fires in the past two weeks, she added.
Nyan Yee Phyo, a Kaman Muslim in Thandwe Township, said 27 Kaman Muslims had also been charged.
Among them, 14 people were charged Tuesday with murder, causing severe harm and assisting murder under the penal code, he said, adding that another 13 Kaman have been charged with various offenses relating to the violence in recent weeks.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has previously said a total of 78 people were initially arrested for the events of Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, which were just the latest bout of deadly inter-communal violence to break out in Arakan State and elsewhere in recent years.
The ministry said that six of those detained in Thandwe had confessed to involvement in murder, although it did not specify whether those six people were Buddhists or Muslims.
Nyan Yee Phyo said the 14 Kaman charged with murder were accused of killing two people and injuring four with knives in Linthi village.
Nyan Yee Phyo, who said he was helping the Kaman suspects, said the various charges for the 27 Kaman Muslims also included the charge of offenses related to attacking religion and instigating riots against four of them, and three are charged with possessing weapons.
He insisted that among the Kaman suspects, “some of them are [actually] the victims of the violence and wrongly accused.”
Nyan Yee Phyo said that the violence a month ago was not a result of tension between communities in Thandwe, but that outsiders were responsible.
“It is not violence between one religion and another, there are some groups of people who try to create instability within our country,” he said.
“I hope the judge will make the decision in accordance with the law.”
The suspects are all being detained in Thandwe Prison. The Thandwe court has set trial dates of Nov. 7 for the Arakanese suspects charged on Thursday and Nov. 12 for the Kaman Muslims charged on Tuesday.