» 06/19/2012, 00.00
MYANMAR - BANGLADESH
Rakhine, ethnic violence: three death sentences for the rape-murder of a woman
The district court has imposed the death penalty against three Muslims: Htet Htet, Mahmud Rawphi and Khochi. Last week, the first of these committed suicide in prison, but the court wished to issue a posthumous condemnation. The killing of Thida Htwe has sparked clashes between Muslims and Buddhists. Dhaka continuous to turn away the Rohingya refugees.
Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The District Court of Kyaukphyu,
in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, has sentenced to death three Muslim men,
held responsible for the rape and killing of Thida Htwe; the death of the young
Arakanese Buddhist at the end of May was the start of the violent sectarian
clashes in the Muslim-Buddhist region, which have left at least 50 dead,
thousands of houses burnt and have caused the flight of hundreds of refugees
from the Rohingya Muslim minority to the coasts of Bangladesh. However, the
government in Dhaka has adopted a strict policy of rejection towards the
refugees (pictured): yesterday, too, about 130 Burmese Rohingya were seized,
placed under judicial detention for interrogation, and later transported away
in the direction of Burma. The total number of expulsions or arrests, since the
beginning of the violence in the state, exceeds two thousand.
The dissident website Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reported that yesterday the district judge has found
guilty of rape, murder and theft Htet Htet (better known as Rawshe), Mahmud
Rawphi (nicknamed Hla Win) and Khochi (whose full name is Myint Swe). On May 28
the three attacked the young Rakhine Buddhist Thida Htwe, from the village of
Thabyaychaung in the town of Ramee, as she was returning home. The Court relied
on the testimony of eight people, including the brother of the victim.
Htet Htet, suspected of masterminding the attack which
resulted in the rape-murder, committed suicide last week, while he was in
prison. The jury wanted to convict him anyway, issuing a posthumous judgment,
in accordance with the Burmese Penal Code. Much of the public is satisfied with
the rapidity of the procedure and the fact that the perpetrators have been
convicted. However, members of civil society and representatives of human
rights organizations are wary of the judgment and hope for a more thorough
investigation to prevent cases of summary justice. The two men now have a week
to appeal the judgment; the matter must still be examined by the Supreme Court
for a final verdict. According to law experts, it is "very unlikely"
that the death penalty will really be applied, given that in Myanmar there have
been no executions since 1988.
In the days following the rape and murder of the woman, an
angry mob attacked some Muslims who were traveling on a bus and were totally
unconnected with the crime; 10 Muslims were killed. The spiral of hatred has
resulted in a real guerrilla war, which continued in the following days and
caused the deaths of 29 others, including 16 Muslims and 13 Buddhists; another
38 were wounded. According to official sources, at least 2,600 homes have been
burnt. Aung San Suu Kyi, in Europe for an official tour, also spoke of the
tension between the Buddhists of Arakan and the Rohingya Muslims: the leader of
the National League for Democracy (NLD) insisted on the need for the "rule
of law", to which all citizens must conform. And she added that there
should be "responsible" surveillance along the border between Burma
Myanmar is composed of more than 135 ethnic groups, who have
always found it difficult to live together; in the past, the military junta has
used an iron fist against the most rebellious. Myanmar Muslims constitute about
4% of a population of 60 million people. The UN says there are 750,000
Rohingyas in the country, concentrated mainly in Rakhine State. Another million
or more are scattered in other countries: Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia. The
state of emergency is the first exceptional measure of Thein Sein, president
for over a year, who is ferrying the country from a military dictatorship to an
at least minimal democracy.
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