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Statement No. (2/2014) Investigation of the Incident at the Ducheeratan Village

By Myanmar National Human Rights Commission  •  February 17, 2014

1.   A team from the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) comprising the Secretary and three members visited Sittwe and Maung Taw Township and made a tour of the Ducheeratan village tract from 30 January to 3 February 2014, in order to investigate the news reports on the incident that had occurred at Ducheeratan middle village.

2.  During the trip, the Commission Team carried out the following activities with regard to:

(a)  the news of the killing of 8 Bengalis,

(b)  the news of 40 Bengalis killed in the police shooting in connection with the attack on the police patrol team by a group of Bengalis from Ducheeratan middle village on the night of 13 January, and

(c)  the Internet news that Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) treated 22 patients wounded in the above mentioned shooting:

–  met and had discussions with some Ministers of the Rakhine State on 30 January and 3 February 2014 and took statements from the relevant responsible officials.

–  took statements from officials concerned, including three high-ranking police officials, District Administrator and also from the Administrator of Kinchaung village, some villagers, and four detainees being remanded and under investigation at the Maung Taw Police Station.

–  interrogated both male and female villagers from Ducheeratan middle village and surrounding Bengali villages and took statements from them.

–  met with around 20 village elders and Islamic religious leaders from the Ducheeratan village tract at the primary school of Ducheeratan middle village and verified with them the news of the killing of 8 and 40 Bengalis.

–  met with over 200 women from Ducheeratan middle village and heard and noted their complaints on the Ducheeratan incident and took statements from some of them.

–  had discussions with the representatives of  UNHCR, UNOCHA and Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF).

–  had discussions with Rakhine townelders of Maung Taw Township.

–  had discussions with Islamic religious leaders and elders of Maung Taw Township.

–  conducted an inspection tour of Ducheeratan villages, including Ducheeratan west village where a fire broke out on 28 January 2014.

–  inspected the former cemetery of Khayay Myaing village.

3.  The following are the facts found out by the Commission Team from the above mentioned activities.

(a)  The news report that 8 Bengalis were killed on 9 January 2014 was not known in Khayay Myaing and Kinchaung villages where Rakhine nationals live. However, this news was rumored in Ducheeratan middle village and other villages where Bengalis reside.

(b)  Although the information that a woodcutter discovered 8 Bengalis buried at the Khayay Myaing cemetery emerged in Ducheeratan Bengali villages, no evidence was detected to confirm this information.

(c)  On interrogation, it was found that Rakhine nationals obtained this information as Internet news.

(d)  Neither in meeting with the elders and religious leaders of the Ducheeratan village tract nor in meeting with over 200 women of Ducheeratan middle village, mention was made by any of them of this information.

(e)  Different news versions of the killing of 8 Bengalis could not be confirmed.

(f)  It was known that some army and police forces entered Ducheeratan villages to search for police sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein after the incident at Ducheeratan middle village on the night of 13 January 2014.

(g)  Regarding the killing of 40 Bengalis from Ducheeratan village, the Commission Team took statements from the departmental officials concerned, high ranking police officials and policemen, responsible persons from the villages concerned, Bengali elders and women from Ducheeratan villages. These statements, however, contained no information that substantiates the alleged news of killings.

(h)  Although the Commission Team urged Bengali religious leaders and women to frankly come forth with their views, no proof was discovered to confirm the alleged news.

(i)  The Commission Team observed that the statements made by Bengali villagers did not contain any information on the attack by villagers on the police patrol commanded by police sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein.

(j)  Discrepancies were noted in the news on the alleged killings of Bengalis. For example, it was reported that over 100 people were killed during the police shooting on 13 January 2014 while the news that a list of 52 people killed given to the Human Rights Commission was found to be incorrect. In fact, such a list was not given to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission.

4.  In the discussion with MSF, it was stated by MSF that 22 people which included 1 person with gunshot wound, 4 people with swellings, 10 people with cuts and bruises and 7 emotionally upset people, were treated by them. However, MSF did not provide the patients’ names and identities to the Commission Team as it keeps the patients list as confidential due to the humanitarian nature of its work. MSF also stated that they did not report the case of gunshot wound either to the police or the government health department and that it merely urged the patient to continue his treatment at a government clinic. According to the township medical officer, no government clinic in Maung Taw received any patient with gunshot wound. However, as a result of the investigations by District Administrator and Township Medical Officer, it was also learnt from two doctors of the MSF that their clinics did not treat any such patients.

5.  The Commission Team discussed its findings with other members of the Commission on 5 February 2014 and reaches the following conclusions and recommendations:

–  The news of the killing of 8 Bengalis and 40 Bengalis did not emerge in the Ducheeratan village tract and it is therefore concluded that the said news is unverifiable and unconfirmed.

–  The government departments and organizations concerned delayed in issuing the news on the true situation regarding the incident at Ducheeratan middle village and this delay gave rise to the spread of rumors and unsubstantiated news.

–  The Commission concludes that the attempt of the 3 policemen to stop the attack of a group of Bengali villagers failed due to defective ammunition and led to a confused situation that finally resulted in the disappearance of the police sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein. It is recommended that necessary steps should be taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

–  The villagers from Ducheeratan east and middle villages fled on 13 January 2014 and as a result, the looting of their possessions, rice stocks and cattle must have occurred during the ensuing commotion. It is therefore recommended that steps should be taken urgently to provide food and other basic needs to the two villages in question.

–  In view of the continued tensions and concerns among the villages involved in the Ducheeratan incident, special security arrangements should be initiated as a matter of priority to prevent further issues from emerging again in those areas.

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This post is in: NHRC Monitor

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