Police official in Rakhine state claims officers were surrounded with swords
Injured Rohingya man among 106 people detained trying to flee Myanmar earlier this week ( EPA )
Myanmar police shot and injured four Rohingya Muslims at a refugee camp on Sunday, according to an eyewitness.
Around 20 police officers entered Ah Nauk Ye camp in western Rakhine state in an operation to arrest two men accused of smuggling people out of the country.
They apprehended the two suspects accused of owning a boat used in an attempt to smuggle more than 100 Rohingya out of Myanmar on Friday.
Maung Maung Aye, a 27-year-old Rohingya Muslim who witnessed the shooting, said four people were injured in the police operation, with two victims in a serious condition.
“People from the camp went out to look and police shot at people,” he told Reuters.
Police said the Rohingya surrounded the officers with swords and threw stones.
“I heard that Bengali from the camp tried to grab the arrested people back from the police and police had to fire warning shots. I heard some Bengali got injured. I don’t know the details,” said police inspector Than Htay from a nearby police station.
Many people in Myanmar call the Rohingya “Bengali,” implying they are from Bangladesh.
Maung Maung Aye disputed the police inspector’s version of events. He said the Rohingya did not attack the police or try to grab the arrested men. He said police fired at residents and not into the sky.
The rickety vessel at the centre of the arrests had been bound for Malaysia on Friday when authorities stopped it at KyaukTan, south of Yangon, detaining all 106 people on board.
The incident, and similar recent boat departures, have raised fears of a fresh wave of dangerous voyages after a crackdown on people smugglers across the region.
Rohingya woman was one of 106 people detained on Friday trying to flee to Malaysia (EPA)
For several years Rohingya Muslims have boarded boats organised by smugglers in the dry months between November and March, when the sea is calm. The perilous journey to Thailand or Malaysia is often undertaken in overcrowded vessels.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya have been confined to camps outside Sittwe in western Rakhine state since violence swept the region in 2012.
They are denied free movement, access to decent healthcare and education.
In August last year, Solidarites International, an international aid group, warned the conditions at the Ah Nauk Ye camp - home to more than 4,000 Rohingya - were severe.
The organisation said the camp was “unsuitable to human settlement” and warned of water shortages, poor access to livelihood opportunities and communal violence.
More than 700,000 Rohingya fled a brutal army crackdown in the northern part of Rakhine last year, according to UN agencies. UN investigators have accused the Myanmar army of “genocidal intent” and ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar denies the allegations genocide, saying it was battling “terrorists”. Attacks by Rohingya insurgents preceded the army’s crackdown that began in late August 2017.
Additional reporting by agencies
Copyright 2018 The Independent