Irrawaddy News: Following an incident with a female staffer, 500 Arakanese surrounded the local office of the French international non-governmental organization Aide Médicale Internationale (AMI) and attacked its office and vehicles in Buthidaung Township in Arakan State in Western Burma on Wednesday, according to local sources.
“A Muslim officer working for AMI harassed a female Arakanese staff nurse, who reported the accident to authorities,” said a source in the township who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“When the police went to arrest him, AMI refused to hand him over. Incensed Arakanese youths who had gathered outside then attacked the office and AMI vehicles,” the source said.
“Youths threw stones at the AMI office,” an eye-witness said. “AMI vehicles were destroyed and electricity to the building was cut off.”
The two-hour attack took place on Wednesday evening, although the quarrel between the two staffers happened earlier in the afternoon and ended when security forces arrived, NGO sources in Buthidaung said.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, a staffer for AMI’s country office in Rangoon said they had discussed a report from their Buthidaung office.
“The situation has returned to normal and was not as bad as first reported,” the AMI staffer said, adding that authorities had ordered NGO staff not to talk to the media about the incident.
AMI provide medicine to local people in the Buthidaung-Maungdaw area, the staffer said. Along with foreign staff, Arakanese and Rohingya Muslims work together at the INGO.
On Friday afternoon, NGOs and UN agencies operating in Burma held a meeting to discuss the incident at the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Rangoon.
Following the incident, the army in Budthidaung Township had to calm the situation. The Rohingya NGO staffer was detained, local sources reported.
When contacted by The Irrawaddy, an officer at Rangoon Police Headquarters declined to comment, saying he did not know anything about the incident.
The Buthidaung-Maungdaw area is historically sensitive. Bloody riots between Arakanese and Muslim Rohingyas have periodically broken out since British colonial times. Rumors of Muslim men raping Arakanese women have sparked race riots.
In the 1990s, the Burmese military junta launched a military offensive against the Muslim minority in the area, causing hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee into Bangladesh.
The junta and some scholars disagree about the use of the term Rohingya for the Muslim minority in Arakan State, saying that these people were originally “Bengali.”