Forced Conversions Initiated by Local Authorities in Rakhine State as Blanket Restrictions Enforced Toward Christian Residents
On 24th and 25th May 2019 three Christians from Padekyaw village, Ann Township, were forced to sign documents by village officials and local monks verifying their conversion to Buddhism after being threatened with eviction from the village tract should they refuse. At approximately 3 pm on May 24th, two local Christian men from Padekyaw were taken to the village monastery by local officials and in front of the head monk, were told that Christians were not allowed to live in Hmwar Village Tract and forced to sign the document:
“The Padekyaw Village Administrator, U Tin Shwe Maung along with U Htun Lin Aung, U Htun Maung Nyi, U Kyaw Tin Aung, U Nga Swe and U Aung Htay who are the abbot committee of the monastery and village-elders took the Christian community members to the village monastery at around 3 pm. They were then forced to sign an oath of commitment to convert to Buddhism in front of the head abbot monk in the village,” said one local resident who agreed to speak to CHRO on condition of anonymity.
The next day, another Christian community member was summoned by a monk from Padekyaw to the village administrator’s office where he was coerced into signing an official document stating that he had converted to Buddhism, also under the threat of eviction from the village tract. Afterwards, at approximately 4 pm, a public announcement in all 8 villages within the village tract was made via village loudspeakers threatening residents that communicating or trading anything with Christian households would result in a 100,000 MMK fine:
“After this announcement was made, U Tin Phe was accused of visiting U Aung Win, a Christian’s house, resulting in them both being fined one lakh kyats [100,000 MMK] by U Nyi Tin Maung, the head [Administrator] of Hmwar Village Tract,” said another source who agreed to speak to CHRO.
U Tin Phe informed CHRO that he had already fled Padekyaw and moved to Hin Ywet as he had refused to convert in July 2018. During this time, other Christians also decided to leave and migrate to other villages. According to community members, there have been many different cases where Christians are discriminated against, physically assaulted or even attacked by Buddhist mobs. Despite being reported to the authorities on several occasions, there has been a lack of any investigations.
*This News Release was first published in Burmese on 10th June 2019.
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