( Kyaw Taw, 3 August 2013) : Protesting against the Burmese government’s policy for providing housing facilities to suspected citizens has put many Arakanese community leaders under trial. Various courts in Arakan State of western Burma are listening the cases against the community leaders who allegedly organized protest demonstrations against the government’s housing plan for the internally displaced people.
On 31 July, four community leaders namely Daw Ma Hla May, U Maung Win, Daw Tin Tin Aye and U Maung Thein Hlaing hailing from in Kyauk Taw, a town located at upper Kaladan river were presented before the court.
The police in charge of Kyauk Taw township registered a case against them as they reportedly led a protest programme on 7 March 2013 in the town without the authority’s permission.
Over 3000 Arakanese Buddhists marched on the street on that day to raise voices against the government’s housing plan for Muslim refugees who left their villages during the last year’s sectarian violence in Arakan.
The protestors demanded the authority to scrutinize the beneficiaries whether they were genuine Burmese citizens or not accordance with 1982 citizenship law before providing them permanent shelters. The beneficiaries were primarily Muslim people who are being offered a single house property by the government.
However Daw Ma Hla May, one of the four Arakanese community leaders facing charges, denied the charge that they led the protest demonstration.
“We four are not the leaders who organized the protest. It was actually a spontaneous demonstration where every one in our town had participated. The participants included many monks and elders also,” said Daw Ma Hla May, president of Kyauk Taw based Women Network.
She also informed that many witnesses described in the court that they were only simple participants in the protest demonstration. The judge has fixed 7 October as the next hearing date for them, she added
Similarly, two other community leaders namely Daw Ma Nyo Aye and Ko Kyaw Zaw Oo from in Sittwe are also facing similar charges as the police in the Arakan capital city registered a case against them.
They are also being accused of leading a huge demonstration of nearly 5000 people without the authority’s permission.
Daw Ma Nyo Aye claimed that altogether 20 social groups of Sittwe had submitted a letter to the local police station and the Arakan State government seeking the permission to hold the protest rally. But the authority remained silent for 10 days.
Finally the citizens of Sittwe came to the street demanding the examination of the citizenship papers of the beneficiary Muslim people before giving them housing facilities.
The Sittwe township court heard them on 24 July and fixed 5 August as the next hearing date.
Three leading Arakanese citizens from Taungup and four community leaders from Rathidaung are also facing the same charges of leading the agitating mass on 7 March last in their respective townships without valid permission from the authority.