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Myanmar official murdered weeks after Rakhine riots


AFP Yangon
An official in a Myanmar town hit by deadly riots about a fortnight ago has been murdered, the government said today, as tensions remain high in restive Rakhine state.

Bobo Min Hteik, 37, was the administrator of Mrauk U township, where police shot dead seven ethnic Rakhine Buddhists on January 16 in a heavy-handed attempt to control a mob angry at the cancellation of a ceremony.

He was found dead on the side of the road on Tuesday evening next to a car, with stab wounds to the chest and shoulder, according to a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

It is unclear whether the killing was linked to the riots, which erupted after authorities blocked a local event commemorating Mrauk U's history as the former capital of an ancient Rakhine Buddhist kingdom.

The protesters briefly seized a government office and hoisted the Rakhine state flag before police shot into the crowd.

It has not been established who gave the order for police to use live ammunition.

Three days after the incident, however, authorities announced that Bobo Min Hteik would be transferred to the state capital Sittwe.

There are now "significant" tensions between locals and authorities in the wake of the Mrauk U violence, said political analyst Richard Horsey.

"Sentiments are very much inflamed after the shooting, for which local authorities are being blamed. But whether that was why he (Bobo Min Hteik) was killed remains to be established," he told AFP.

Ethnic and religious hatred divides Rakhine state, which forms Myanmar's western border with Bangladesh.

Mrauk U, which is home to a complex of ancient Buddhist temples, has been left largely unscathed by unrest further north in Rakhine, where the military unleashed a brutal assault that has driven nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims over the border into Bangladesh since August.

Rakhine Buddhist mobs have been accused of helping the military torch hundreds of Rohingya villages. They revile the community as illegal "Bengali" immigrants bent on taking over the state.

But many ethnic Rakhine also have a longstanding enmity with Myanmar authorities dating back to the demise of the Rakhine or Arakan kingdom and a general lack of economic opportunity.

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First Published: Jan 31 2018 | 7:25 PM IST

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