Chief minister forced out in Myanmar's strife-torn Rakhine state
Head of violence-wracked region forced to retire as national religion minister also ousted
The chief minister of Myanmar's Rakhine state, which has been embroiled in sectarian violence, has retired and the country's religious affairs minister has been fired.
An announcement signed by President Thein Sein gave no explanation for Hla Maung Tin's retirement or for the sacking of Hsan Sint.
Several official sources said Hsan Sint is facing an investigation on corruption charges. His removal coincides with the arrest of five Buddhist monks last week after a well-known Buddhist monastery was raided in a late-night operation apparently triggered by a dispute over ownership of monastic property.
Thein Sein pledged to create a clean government after taking power in 2011, and has seen in a series of cabinet reshuffles without any explanation.
The announcement yesterday said that Hla Maung Tin was permitted to retire, a common euphemism for a firing. Saying someone has been fired implies a more serious legal matter.
Rakhine has been caught up since mid-2012 in sectarian violence that has challenged the government and brought international criticism.
This week, a top UN humanitarian official said she witnessed "appalling conditions" and the worst human suffering she had ever seen in camps for stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. Assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs Kyung-wha Kang said that because of severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, both in camps and isolated villages, many Muslims could not rebuild their lives and had "wholly inadequate access to basic services including health, education, water and sanitation".
Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar considers the Rohingya Muslims to be immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship and related rights, even though many were born to families who arrived in the country generations ago.
Meanwhile, a senior British monk stripped of his clerical status and accused of defaming Buddhism after he was detained in last week's monastery raid was released on bail his lawyer said.
Uttara and four other monks were greeted by hundreds of supporters outside the Yangon court after their release from the notorious Insein prison.
The five had not been officially charged with defaming the religion, their lawyer Aye Ko said, adding that they would return for a second hearing on June 27.
The British embassy has called on Myanmar to ensure full legal representation for Uttara, a British passport holder who is in Myanmar on a working visit.
"We citizens do not accept what happened. We ask for their immediate release," said construction worker Aung Khin, 56, outside the court.
According to a report last week in the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar, the row stems from a 2002 decision by the then-ruling junta to hand the property over to national Buddhist authorities.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse