Police officers in Myanmar’s Rakhine state shot and killed a Rohingya man and injured another as the two men sped through a checkpoint on their motorbike in the state capital Sittwe on Sunday night, sources said.
Lular Yar, 30, was killed after being struck in the chest, and a friend, Abu Setee, 32, was shot through the head by security officers stationed near Twin Myaung village, witnesses to the shooting told RFA’s Myanmar Service Monday.
The man shot in the chest died almost immediately on the road, a local Rohingya resident told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern for his safety.
“The second man was shot in the back of the head, and the bullet came out through his eye,” the source said, adding, “He told us this himself, as he was still able to speak.”
“I heard the gunfire at about 10:00 p.m. last night, and we heard the news about the man’s death about 15 minutes later,” a second source said, also speaking on condition his name not be used.
“We heard they were returning to their homes [when they were shot]. The survivor, Abu Setee, is a ferry operator who used to transport patients to clinics at the Darpaing refugee camp,” he said.
A third source told RFA that the two men had been fired on by police at the Mingan police checkpoint near Twin Myaung village when they drove through the gate after ignoring an order to stop.
The injured man, Abu Setee, was sent to a hospital in Sittwe for emergency care, local sources said.
Reached for comment, state government and police officials denied the two men had been shot by police, claiming they had been involved instead in a machete fight.
“They always do these kinds of things,” Col. Min Than, Rakhine’s Minister for Security and Border Affairs, said. “One is now at the hospital, while the other is dead.”
“We are still conducting investigations as to who carried out the machete attack. The injured man is in no condition to be questioned, though” he said.
Police waiting for reports
Maung Maung Soe, deputy policy commander for Rakhine state, said he had heard no reports of a shooting by police, adding that a police investigation will be carried out based on medical examiners’ findings.
“So far, we haven’t got the medical reports, though,” he added.
Sittwe hosts refugee camps for many of the 120,000 Rohingya Muslims made homeless in a wave of slayings and attacks across Rakhine state in June 2012 that killed more than 200 people.
Local Muslim community leaders declined to comment in detail on the incident, saying only that they had heard the men were shot by the police, and requesting anonymity because of the politically and ethnically sensitive nature of the case.
Investigations taking witness statements into account should now be carried out to determine who is responsible for the injury and death in Sunday night’s incident, said Nicky Diamond, a member of the rights group Fortify Rights.
“But I don’t think they will be credible, since the Ministry of Home Affairs [which manages the police] will be in charge,” he said.
The Rohingya, a Muslim minority group in majority-Buddhist Myanmar, have long struggled against discrimination and been denied citizenship, being widely viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.
Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya—more than 740,000 of whom were driven by the country’s military out of their communities in northern Rakhine and into refugee camps in Bangladesh in 2017—has brought Western sanctions and war crimes charges against Myanmar’s military in international courts.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Richard Finney.