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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Interview with some school teachers who barely survived and witnessed Rakhine Massacre

The following conversation is recorded on Saturday (June 9) a day after the public school teachers escaped from mass killing and burning committed by Bengali (so called Rohingya).
An interviewer: Was the house torched first or was Sayargyee (School Principal) killed in his house?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: No. Bengali mob started at Buddhist monastery. Then, there were some shops near the monastery and they set them on fire. There was another convenient store near a pharmacy. They continued to torch that down as well. And the Bengali mob moved to the dormitory where Rakhine teachers live and tried to burn it. The dormitory was not burnt down as much as they expected. So they broke into the dorm and stole the properties of the residents. They continued attacking the local Rakhine residents in the area. Due to the attack and fire, Rakhine residents fled their village in frenzy.
Saya Shan (Rakhine School Principal) and his wife shouted at each other, "Run, Run, Run, Run away..." as they faced the Bengali mob who were armed with knives, wooden bats, rocks and gasoline bottles. Saya Shan's wife was hit on her head with a machete by Bengali males and she ran away from the mob. Then, the Bengalis demanded Saya Shan in Bengali to surrender his sword. He said, "No, I can't." So, he was beaten and murdered at the scene near the water well at the East side. After that, Bengalis kept assaulting other local Rakhine residents with their knives, machete, wooden bats and rocks. They burnt all the motorcycles. Rakhine villagers ran to the top of the mountain.
An interviewer: How did you survive from Bengali attack?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: I ran toward a mountain near our village to hide with other local Rakhine residents. As I ran, I heard voices from Bengali mob saying, "We will come back to kill you all after burning the village down." While we were hiding on the mountain, a few local residents from our village came to us and said, "Na-Sa-Ka (Burmese Border Force) is here." They were near the place where Saya Shan was killed. I think it was around 5:30 or 6 pm.
An interviewer: Which Na-Sa-Ka?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: From Zone 7, Ah-Le-Than-Kyaw village.
An interviewer: What happened after Na-Sa-Ka had arrived?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: When we got back to my village, I saw some of local residents with Na-Sa-Ka at the clinic. They let us gather at the clinic. Around 3:15 am, the military cars came.
An interviewer: How many trucks?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: Two trucks. One jeep and one pick-up truck.
An interviewer: Did they transport you all in them?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: Yes. First, they took me to Ah-Le-Than-Kyaw.
On our way to Ah-Lay-Than-Kyaw, we had to cross a bridge which is located near Taing Gyi village. Bengali destroyed that bridge maliciously in order to stop Rakhine people. So we had to turn back and go to Maungdaw instead (a township where majority of population is Rohingya/Bangali).
An interviewer: Is that the long bridge near Ah-Le-Than-Kyaw?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: Yes. Yes, a long bridge before Taing Gyi village.
An interviewer: When you arrive (at Maundaw), where did you have to stay?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: In Aung-Myay-Baw-Di
An interviewer: We heard Bengalis will start their attack again at 2 PM.
(Indistinct conversation is not clear enough to be translated.)
An interviewer: Were all villagers able to escape the village?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: I think most of the villagers were able to escape.
Four female teachers, 3 male teachers, one nurse and her dad, and about 14 or 15 other villagers...
About 14 or 15 ran up to the mountain at night and did not know about Na-Sa-Ka soldiers who came to rescue us. I don't know what happened to them now. They might probably cross the jungle and go to Rathedaung township.
An interviewer: Is the monk with you all?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: Yes. The monk came along with us.
An interviewer: So only about 150 people were able to escape?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: No. No. Not that many people (Rakhine) live there.
(Indistinct conversation)
An interviewer: How many houses are there in your village?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: About 100 houses.
An interviewer: Where are you from, teachers?
One said, "I am from Myauk Oo."
One said, "I am from Min Pya."
One said, "I am from Sittwe."
One said, "I am from Kyeintali, Thandway."
One said, "I am from Gwa."
(Mrauk Oo, Min Pya, Sittwe, Kyeintali and Gwa are hundreds of mile away from Maung-daw where they are now.)
(Indistinct conversation)
An interviewer: How many teachers are there in your village?
A Rakhine female teacher from Sittwe: 20 teachers are here (20 teachers Survived and arrived at Maungdaw).
27 teachers in total... Sayargyee's wife is in the hospital.
A interviewer: What's her name?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: Daw Soe Khine. She is also a teacher from our school. She was assaulted with machete on her head by Bengali mob. She is originally from Maungdaw area.
As I ran toward the mountain to hide from the attacks, I turned back and saw that some Bengalis, mostly in their teenage and in twenties, were killing Rakhine people. They first hit with machete. When they did not die, they keep beating them to death with wooden bat and rock. While they were killing Rakhine people, Sayargyee (Principal) Shan approached the Bengalis to request them to stop the attacks. He thought they would listen to him since he has been teaching in the area for about 20 years and they were his students. But they did not listen to him and unfortunately beat him to death. Most of the Bengalis who killed Sayargyee Shan are his own students.
All the houses and shops in Rakhine village are burned to ashes. Only two houses were left in our village.
(Indistinct conversation)
An interviewer: Would you be able to get the Sayargyee's body?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: His body was left at the scene of the attack. It was impossible to pick up his body since the place was so dangerous.
A interviewer: Do you think Bengalis might take away his body to prevent further criminal investigation from government officials?
A Rakhine female teacher from Sittwe: They might but we can't say anything exactly so far. When military arrived at the area, Bengalis were gone.
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: They can always come back from the back of the village.
On our way to Ah-Le-Than-Kyaw, another Rakhine village called Kha-Yay-Myaing was burned down. They also burned many other Rakhine villages including Taing-Gyi, Tha-Yay-Kone-Baung, and Moe-Ye. Rakhine residents from Taing-Gyi and Moe-Ye villages were still missing. There are some teachers in Taing-Gyi as well. We heard that Na-Sa-Ka came into Tha-Yay-Kone-Baung because Bengalis were attacking. At that time, Bengalis moved to Taing-Gyi and burnt the whole village.
(Indistinct Conversation)
A Rakhine female teacher from Sittwe: No Rakhine village is left there. In Ball-Htee-Kone village, Rakhine children were thrown alive into the fire by Bengali.
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: When they set fire to Rakhine houses, many elderly or disable people could not leave their house fast enough so they were burned alive to death. There are many sad cases like this in many villages. Many Rakhine villages are razed by the fire set by Bengali. A Pu's dad was cruelly murdered by Bengali. (A Pu is a friend of some teachers who survived.) Her brothers and sisters were stuck in the middle of the attack and were not able to flee away from their village.
Another Rakhine female teacher: Oh my God, was A Pu's dad brutally killed?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: Yeah. Her mom was assaulted by Bengali as well.
Another person from Nan-Nyo was killed. They killed 4 people (from Nan-Nyo) as far as I knew."
An interviewer: Are you going back to the village to teach again after the attack is over?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: One thing I can tell you now is that I am not going back to the area to teach again because all of my students are Bengalis. It is way too risky for my life. Staying there to teach them is like gardening plants like poison ivy/castor bean plants which will harm you one day. I don't care if they fire me for requesting for job transfer. As far as I know, all teachers are very disappointed and scared to go back to teach them. I have been devoted my life to the education, development and wellness of Muslim populations in those villages by sacrificing my family life. Yesterday while I was running to hide on the mountain, I realized that I would be killed by those Bengalis.
A Rakhine female teacher from Sittwe: I am going to request for transfer to Buthetaung (another town of Rakhine State) right way.
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: On the day of attack, I was in my dorm and on the phone with my husband talking about Bengali violence and killings in Rakhine villages. A male Bengali from short distance from me shouted at me, "come down now...... come down..." He was aiming his sling shot at me. I froze and stared at him for a minute. Then I took off my slippers and ran away from him to the mountain with all my energy. He stared at me running for a few minutes. I do not know why he didn't chase me right way. Then he and other Bengalis decided to chase me. Luckily, I was far enough from them and able to hide on the mountain. I would have been killed if I came down of my dorm toward him as he demanded.
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: Before our village was attacked by Bengalis, we have heard of Bengalis riot in other villages. But it was calm. Around 1 P.M, we, teachers, were eating "La-Phat-Thuak" (Geen tea salad) without any worries. We were laughing and cooking and putting food in our lunch boxes. All of the sudden, we saw local Muslim crowd in our neighborhood. We positively thought that the crowd just came from mosque. But we were not sure. I was joking other teachers, "if there is a problem, the school will be closed and we can go back home to see our family." Around 3 P.M, we heard the violent noise from Bengali mob. At the same time, we heard news about military arrival to town.
An interviewer: You said, the military vehicles came to your village at 3 am to pick you up. When did you arrive at Maungdaw?
A Rakhine female teacher from Kyeintali: At 5 am.
Translated by Ko Myo Lurn Kyaw and Ko Kyaw Htoo Aung

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