Myanmar’s military has arrested 18 people, most of them Buddhist nuns, who have been providing free medical services to victims of conflict in western Rakhine state, authorities announced on Tuesday.
The statement by the military appeared to point to widespread sectarian tensions that have been created by the country’s military-led government, which has been pushing ahead with a vast, controversial plan to rewrite the constitution to ensure one ethnic group, the largely Buddhist Arakanese, retains a secure and dominant share of power. Buddhist monks who support President Thein Sein’s government, by and large, have been instrumental in creating goodwill for the constitution-reform efforts.
In recent months, military officials have accused Muslim Rohingya residents of Rakhine of inciting sectarian violence with Buddhist residents in more than one area. The Rohingya are denied citizenship by Myanmar, which has conducted a severe security operation in response to a series of attacks on border guards by armed, Muslim Rohingya militants. The military operation in Rakhine has also led to the exodus of more than 300,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh, where many are housed in makeshift camps.
While the military and Buddhist monks have been unanimous in denouncing the Rohingya militants and in asserting that the group is to blame for the violence, there is some tension among them as to who should take the blame for the initial events that triggered the Rohingya influx.
The military statement said that 18 people, all nuns, were arrested “for some misdemeanors regarding healthcare services provided to those who are undergoing the civil unrest and violence in the Northern Rakhine state.” The military said that the nuns “were afraid to provide the necessary treatment to the Muslims.”
A police raid at a hospital in the Rakhine town of Buthidaung, the statement said, found 21 villagers in need of medical treatment and “long suffering with many ailments,” including from “neck and neck wounds, skin ulcers, skin erosion, numerous mosquito bites, acute pain, and from common diseases.” The authorities arrested the eight nuns.
If convicted, the police charge, they will receive one to five years in prison and a fine of 10,000 to 20,000 kyat, or around $8 to $30.
Read the full story at The Guardian.
Newly-released UN report reveals that military may have committed crimes against humanity in Myanmar
Monks in Myanmar hand out ‘very pretty’ Valentine’s Day card to gay couple
Myanmar president condemns ‘inhuman’ treatment of Rohingya in speech live-streamed to the nation