Myanmar police shot dead seven demonstrators and 12 were injured in troubled Rakhine State, after a local gathering celebrating an ancient Buddhist Arakan kingdom turned violent, report agencies.
The demonstrators gathered late on Tuesday in Mrauk U township in the northern part of Rakhine to mark the end of the Arakan kingdom, the secretary of the Rakhine state government, Tin Maung Swe, told Reuters.
The violence took place when Bangladesh and Myanmar were signing a document on repatriation of Rohingya refugees living in Cox's Bazar camps after fleeing violence in Rakhine.
Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed that the Rohingya repatriation process will commence on January 23. Myanmar wants to take back around 1258 Myanmar nationals both Muslims and Hindus in the first batch.
The Amnesty International (AI) has termed the process of sending back the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar "illegal and premature."
Myanmar earlier sent a list containing names of more than 1,300 Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) "terrorist members" to Bangladesh.
It was done at the 4th Myanmar-Bangladesh Central-Level Meeting on Border Security and Law Enforcement Cooperation held in Nay Pyi Taw on November 14 last, Myanmar information ministry said on Wednesday.
In Rakhine the violent demonstration underscores the challenges facing Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a country where dozens of ethnic groups have been clamouring for autonomy since independence from Britain in 1947.
Some 4,000 people surrounded a government building after the annual ceremony marking the demise of the Arakan kingdom over 200 years ago, Tin Maung Swe said. Organisers did not seek approval from local authorities for the gathering, he said.
The Rakhine, also known as Arakanese, are one of the 135 officially recognised ethnic groups in Myanmar. Their identity is closely connected to the once powerful Arakanese kingdom along the Bay of Bengal, which was conquered by the Burmese kingdom in 1784. The kingdom was once an important stop on the old silk trade route.
Myanmar provided to Bangladesh detailed lists of 508 persons of Hindu faith and 750 persons of Muslim faith who have been verified as Myanmar residents and suggested the latter to include them in the first batch of repatriation, according to Myanmar information ministry.
However, James Gomez, Amnesty International's Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said with memories of rape, killing and torture still fresh in the minds of Rohingya refugees, plans for their return to Myanmar are "alarmingly premature".
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