Myanmar: RNDP Chairman, 10 others released on bail

Eleven Arakanese nationalists, including a chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), who were detained in connection with the ethno-religious violence that broke out in October, have been released on bail.

Maung Pu, the Sandoway [Thandwe] township chairman of the RNDP, said he and the 10 other members of the nationalist group Organisation to Protect Race and Religion have been released on bail after being detained for two months in Sandoway and Kyaukphyu prisons.

“We were charged under Article 505(c) *, which allows for release on bail. Since the charges were brought by the police, it was assumed there was no need to worry about us going back to harass the [prosecutors]. We were residents actively working in the interest of the town; it’s not likely we will skip bail, so it was granted,” said Maung Pu.

The eleven men are still awaiting trial for two separate charges. Maung Pu maintained his innocence and said he will fight the charges but remain within the boundaries of the law.

More than 90 people were arrested in connection with the riots that broke out in Sandoway in early October, which left at least five dead and about 120 families homeless.

Pe Than, a Central Executive Committee member of the RNDP, said Maung Pu and the nationalist group members were made scapegoats due to “pressure from above”.

The riots broke out during President Thein Sein’s first visit to restive Arakan state since the initial outbreak of riots between Muslims and Buddhists erupted in the region in June 2012.

The ensuing rash of violence has since spread to several parts of Burma and has overwhelmingly affected Muslims, particularly the stateless Rohingya community. More than 240 people have died as a result of the ongoing outbreaks of violence, including a 94-year old woman murdered in central Burma.

While foreign heads of state, human rights groups and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, have all issued warnings to the Burmese government that their failure to contain ethno-religious conflict may threaten democratic development, the number of prosecutions related to the riots remains unknown.

* Burmese penal code Article 505:

Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report,—

(a) with intent to -cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such; or

(b) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility; or

(c) with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.