Chin State’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, Electricity and Industry Soe Htet said he would take action against those who have issued death threats against him and former minister Isaac Khin on social media as soon as he has enough evidence to press charges.
“We are preparing to take action against the people who made the threats on a social media network,” he said, speaking to Khonumthung News.
“We know who has been doing this. A few people, including staff from the education and healthcare departments, are spreading hate speech and creating conflict between Rakhine and Chin ethnic people. We are collecting information. When we get enough evidence, we will take action,” he said.
The death threats appeared on the Facebook page of the Paletwa Township News on June 6. They referred to the minister as a “Khumi dog” and said he would be “sent to hell.” The post included photos of the minister.
The Khumi are an ethnic minority group native to southern Chin State and other parts of northwestern Burma.
Soe Htet said he would not allow the perpetrators of hate speech to stoke inter-ethnic tensions. He added that he knew the death threats had come from government workers sympathetic to the Arakan Army (AA), which has been active in the area.
On June 8, the Khumi Affairs Coordinating Committee (KACC) released a statement condemning the death threats. It demanded that Chin and Rakhine religious leaders bring the situation under control before it gets any worse.
“When conflicts occur, both sides become suspicious of each other. They [Rakhine] see Chin people as government army informers, and Chin people believe the Rakhine are acting as informers to the Arakan Army. Conflicts have consequences. So we need regional stability. I think this death threat didn’t come from the AA, but it was probably from their supporters. Therefore, responsible officials from the AA and Rakhine elders need to take control of this situation,” said KACC coordinator Saw Mya.
According to KACC, Steven Van, the secretary of the Paletwa Baptist Convention, has also received death threats on Facebook in recent days.
KACC urged all parties “not to spread hate speech, which can make conflicts between the multi-ethnic people of Paletwa Township.”
Fighting between the Burma Army and the AA has intensified in the area in recent days, forcing hundreds of local villagers to flee to the town of Paletwa to escape heavy shelling. In the past week alone, more than 700 people have fled to the town from five nearby villages, bringing the total of displaced villagers to more than 3,000.