Bangladesh arrests prominent Buddhist charity chief active in Myanmar's Rakhine

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AFP) - Bangladesh has arrested on terrorism charges a prominent Buddhist philanthropist whose charity operates in Myanmar's strife-torn Rakhine state, police said on Wednesday (Oct 25).

Police said U Shit Maung, 67, was detained as he tried to board a flight to Myanmar at Dhaka's international airport last week.

Police only revealed on Wednesday that Maung, who heads the Rakhaing Development Foundation, had been detained after allegedly suspicious images were found on his laptop.

"The RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) arrested him over anti-terrorism charges last week from the airport and handed him to us," airport police chief Noor-e-Azam Mia told AFP, without elaborating on the charges.

Violence in Rakhine, likened by the United Nations to ethnic cleansing, has driven more than 600,000 Muslim Rohingya from Buddhist-majority Myanmar into Bangladesh since August.

Many of the displaced Muslims in Bangladesh say the army and Buddhist mobs massacred or raped civilians and razed villages.

Maung's sister Ayethein Rakhaing said her brother, whose wife lives in Myanmar, was innocent and described the charges against him as false.

"He works for both the Muslims and Buddhists. He works there (Rakhine) for peace," said Rakhaing, a former lawmaker from the ruling Awami League.

The Rohingya refugee crisis has prompted an outpouring of sympathy in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, but has also fuelled tensions with the small population of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists living there.

Some refugees living in overcrowded camps have alleged that Bangladeshi Buddhists, known locally as Moghs, have joined militias perpetrating atrocities across the border in Rakhine.

"My brother was killed by Bangladeshi Moghs," Rohingya refugee Amirul Islam, who fled from Myanmar, told AFP at a camp in Cox's Bazar district.

Bangladesh police have bolstered security at Buddhist temples near the border, fearing local hostility among the Rohingya could boil over into reprisal attacks.