Nine po­lice killed in Rakhine bor­der at­tack

No one claimed im­me­di­ate re­spon­si­bil­ity for the se­ries of deadly armed raids on po­lice out­posts in Maung­daw town­ship, along the bor­der with Bangladesh.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page -

NINE Myan­mar po­lice of­fi­cers were killed in co­or­di­nated at­tacks by in­sur­gents on posts along the bor­der with Bangladesh early yes­ter­day, an of­fi­cial and po­lice said.

No one has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity but a senior lo­cal Myan­mar of­fi­cial pointed the fin­ger at a mil­i­tant group from the Mus­lim Ro­hingya mi­nor­ity that has been dor­mant for years.

The as­saults hit three bor­der posts around 1:30am near Maung­daw town­ship in Rakhine State, sim­mer­ing with ten­sions be­tween Bud­dhists and Mus­lim Ro­hingyas, who are forced to live in dire con­di­tions.

“Al­to­gether nine po­lice were killed, four oth­ers were in­jured and one is still miss­ing,” U Tin Maung Swe, a senior of­fi­cial within Rakhine’s state gov­ern­ment, told AFP.

He added that eight in­sur­gents were also killed in the at­tacks.

Po­lice in the cap­i­tal Nay Pyi Taw con­firmed the at­tack and said mul­ti­ple weapons were seized by the as­sailants.

U Tin Maung Swe said the at­tack­ers were “RSO in­sur­gents”, a ref­er­ence to a group known as the Ro­hingya Sol­i­dar­ity Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

He did not elab­o­rate on how he knew this.

The RSO was a small Ro­hingya mil­i­tant group ac­tive in the 1980s and 1990s but is not be­lieved to have been ac­tive in more re­cent years.

A 2014 re­port by the Brus­sels­based In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group, cit­ing re­gional se­cu­rity ex­perts’ con­sen­sus, de­scribed the RSO as largely de­funct, but added that “there ap­pear to be ef­forts un­der way in the wake of the 2012 vi­o­lence to re­ha­bil­i­tate the group as an armed or­gan­i­sa­tion”.

While high­light­ing ob­sta­cles to any suc­cess­ful at­tempt to re­vive the RSO, the re­port added a warn­ing.

“Even if the RSO is not a cred­i­ble mil­i­tary threat, the group’s very ex­is­tence could be used as an easy jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for in­creased dis­crim­i­na­tion against Mus­lims in Rakhine State,” it said. “This is a real risk given Myan­mar’s bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence with mul­ti­ple do­mes­tic in­sur­gen­cies and its abid­ing sense of in­se­cu­rity.”

In May at­tack­ers stormed a se­cu­rity post at a camp for Ro­hingya refugees in south­ern Bangladesh, just across the bor­der from Maung­daw. A Bangladeshi camp com­man­der was shot dead and the at­tack­ers made off with weapons.

Po­lice at the time said the Ro­hingya them­selves could be sus­pects.

In re­cent years Bangladeshi po­lice have also al­leged that Ro­hingya refugees are in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Any rise in vi­o­lence in Rakhine will be a ma­jor con­cern for the new civil­ian-led gov­ern­ment of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

She has asked for­mer UN chief Kofi An­nan to head a com­mis­sion tasked with try­ing to heal sec­tar­ian di­vi­sions in the state. The move was largely wel­comed by Ro­hingya com­mu­nity lead­ers but an­gered Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ists.

Mean­while, un­easy res­i­dents in Maung­daw town­ship said they fear for their safety in the wake of the shoot­ings.

“We are fear­ful be­cause we heard sev­eral shoot­ings since 1:30am. We also heard that weapons have gone miss­ing so it height­ens our anx­i­ety, and now the en­tire town dares not go out­side,” said Daw Thein Than from Maung­daw’s Kan Nyin Tan ward.

Shops in down­town Maung­daw re­mained shut­tered yes­ter­day and se­cu­rity per­son­nel have sealed off all but one en­trance into the town.

Rakhine State was wracked in 2012 by vi­o­lence be­tween Bud­dhists and Mus­lims that dis­placed more than 100,000 peo­ple, most of them self-iden­ti­fy­ing Ro­hingya.

A cur­few in Maung­daw dis­trict, which has been im­posed from 11pm to 4am since the 2012 vi­o­lence, has been broad­ened to the hours of 7pm to 6am. Ac­cord­ing to U Hla Myint, Maung­daw town­ship ad­min­is­tra­tor, sec­tion 144 of the Code of Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure has been in­voked in Maung­daw and neigh­bour­ing Buthi­daung town­ships, out­law­ing pub­lic as­sem­blies. U Hla Myint said the two town­ships have be­come in­creas­ingly mil­i­tarised.

“Naval forces have closed the wa­ter­ways. The air force has also ar­rived by he­li­copters. The army and po­lice force are work­ing to­gether to clear the area,” said U Hla Myint.

Un­like most of Rakhine State, Maung­daw is a ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim town­ship. Ac­cord­ing to an August re­port from the UN Of­fice for the Co­or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs (OCHA), there were 1378 IDPs liv­ing in nine camps in the town­ship as of July 1. State-wide, the OCHA re­port put the num­ber liv­ing in IDP camps at just un­der 120,000.

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

A man stands near the end of the bor­der fence in Maung­daw town­ship, Rakhine State.

Photo: Pyae Thet Phyo

Se­cu­rity and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials hold a press con­fer­ence in Nay Pyi Taw yes­ter­day.

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