Maungdaw, Burma: A murder led to a massive combing operation causing acute harassment to villagers in “Kyar Gaung Taung village” in Maungdaw Township, Arakan State as of March 2. The goal of the operation, more than finding the killers, was two fold: to make arbitrary arrests and take bribes on release and force the villagers to abandon their village, a village elder said.

On March 2, 2007, Nur Kamal, the Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC) Chairman, son of Fayazuddin, hailing from “Kyar Gaung Taung village” in Nasaka area No. 5, in Maungdaw Township, was murdered by a group of five from the same village, villagers said.

Following the brutal murder the police, military personnel and Nasaka (Burma’s border security force), began a massive operation in the village arresting both the innocent and the guilty.

Following the arrest, some of the villagers were released after being forced to pay bribes. The authorities made quite a sum in bribes from the villagers. Now the village is deserted. Nearly all the villagers have run away. The operation, however, is still underway.

The operation caused panic among the Rohingya villagers as the law enforcing authorities mostly arrested villagers who were in a position to shell out bribes. The aim of the operation was to kill two birds with one stone. The operation saw to collecting money and emptying the village by forcing villagers to flee their native place, said a village elder.

If the authorities were sincere in their attempts to arrest the culprits, they should have rounded up only those they suspected after proper investigation. Arbitrary arrest of villagers and releasing them after taking money was unethical, said a schoolteacher from the village.