Rohingya MP Shwe Maung has been interrogated and threatened with a defamation lawsuit after he accused local police of involvement in the burning of Rohingya homes in Du Char Yar Tan village in late January, the latest effort by the Burmese government to silence accusations of wrongdoing in the country’s ongoing sectarian conflict.
Burma’s President Thein Sein wrote to the speaker of the House, Shwe Mann, saying he said that he wanted to interrogate Shwe Maung about an interview given to Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) in which he said that he believed police were involved in the burning of 16 Rohingya homes on January 28.
Du Char Yar Tan (also spelt Duchira Dan) is a Rohingya village in southern Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State.
The incident in late January follows an alleged massacre in the village earlier in the month in which at least 40 Rohingya are believed to have been killed. There were also reports of rapes. According to the UN, which condemned the incident and called for an investigation, at least 48 people were killed.
The Arakan Project said many people were stabbed rather than shot, suggesting they were not killed by the security forces who would have used guns, but killed by the mob as the security forces looked on.
Then, on January 28, a fire tore through the village and destroyed between 16 and 22 homes, according to DVB.
In his controversial interview, Shwe Maung said that on January 27 the Rohingya men who were guarding their neighborhood were replaced by policemen. That evening, according to Shwe Maun, at around 8.45pm fire broke out in one house and quickly spread as the police looked on.
He said: “It happened after the police took over guard duty of that part of the village.”
“Also, I have solid information from locals in nearby villages who phoned me and said they saw the police setting the houses on fire,” he added.
He also claimed that the police prevented villagers from trying to put out the fires.
Shwe Maung is a Rohingya MP in Burma’s Lower House representing Buthidaung constituency, which is next to Maungdaw Township where the fire broke out.
He denied all the charges against him.
He said: “I never did anything to defame the State and Myanmar Police Force. What I do is for the good of my nation and people according to the Constitution and Pyithu Hlutraw Law. I always emphasize tability, peaceful existence, development, rule of law, justice and equal rights.”
The government appears intent on shutting down any reporting or discussion of the events in Du Char Yar Tan.
In January it accused AP (Associated Press), which originally broke the story of the murders, of false reporting.
Chief Minister of Rakhine State, Hla Maung Tin, also talked of “false news published and aired by foreign media that children and women were killed in the violence” on the Ministry of Information website.
The Burmese government also reacted angrily when UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an investigation into the deaths.
Ye Htut, spokesman for the office of President Thein Sein, told The Irrawaddy: “It was sad to see a statement issued by the UN, not using information from their local office staff, but quoting unreliable information and issuing the statement. These accusations are unacceptable.”
The US and British embassies have also called for independent investigations into the killings.