Missing Bengalis trying to avoid arrest, say Myanmar villagers

MAUNGDAW - Missing Bengali villagers from Ducheertan are actually hiding from the authorities because they fear arrest, other residents of the village told the EU Ambassador for Myanmar, Roland Kobia, and Europe consuls here yesterday.

The consuls, including the EU Ambassador and those from the UK, France, Italy, Germany and other European countries, officials from the EU office and Rakhine State Chief Minister Hla Maung Tin, arrived in Maungdaw yesterday and met with Bengalis from Ducheertan village. Bengali women said they are having difficulty getting food because men in the village are hiding from the authorities. When asked by the EU ambassador why the men were hiding, a woman said that the men are afraid of being arrested by the authorities in connection with the murder of police sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein.

An official from the EU delegation asked Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko from the Rakhine State police force whether the police will arrest the hiding villagers or not. The brigadier general answered, "They will not arrest them but only interrogate them."

However, the villagers said nothing to the EU delegation about the killing of Bengali children and women as reported in international media. Nor did they say anything about Bengali men who have been killed or arrested, sources say.

"The villagers told the EU delegation about the food shortage and some men missing," said Maungdaw MP Aung Myo Min.

On January 13, a group of five policemen led by the police sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein, with the support of village elders, was conducting a regular patrol in the area when it reached the Bengali village. When the group arrived near the village school, police say that several Bengali villagers shouted at them in their language.

The police said that when they replied, "We're just patrolling. We are not coming to provoke you. We have village elders," a group of Bengalis surrounded and attacked them, reportedly shouting, "Stab them!" The police said they tried to retreat from the area as they were heavily outnumbered by the Bengalis, but a sergeant was left behind, trapped in the village along with his M22 rifle. He was finally killed, the brigadier general told the EU delegation in his witness statement.

The 17 Bengalis who are suspected of involvement in the case have been interrogated and charged by the authorities under the penal codes 333, 345 and 114.