Fa­tal­i­ties re­ported in Maung­daw man­hunt

Sev­eral Mus­lim men were shot dead yes­ter­day in north­ern Rakhine State in the wake of three lethal at­tacks on bor­der out­posts that prompted a se­cu­rity crack­down.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NYAN LYNN AUNG YEE YWAL MYINT news­room@mm­times.com

AN un­known num­ber of Mus­lim men were shot dead yes­ter­day in north­ern Rakhine State, where three at­tacks on po­lice posts along the bor­der with Bangladesh killed at least nine po­lice of­fi­cers this week and trig­gered a man­hunt for the as­sailants.

Po­lice Lieu­tenant Kyaw Aye Hlaing of the Maung­daw town­ship po­lice depart­ment told The Myan­mar Times that at least two lethal al­ter­ca­tions be­tween se­cu­rity per­son­nel and men in Mus­lim vil­lages took place yes­ter­day.

“I heard about this, that the dead peo­ple were Mus­lim, be­cause all of the fight­ing hap­pened in Mus­lim vil­lages. As far as I know, the fight­ing hap­pened in two places, at Myothugyi and Kyikan Pyin vil­lages, but I was not able to find out de­tails on the num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties,” he said. “How­ever, it is cer­tain they were Mus­lim peo­ple, al­though who they are has not yet been con­firmed.”

A coali­tion of Ro­hingya ad­vo­cacy groups yes­ter­day said 10 mem­bers of the per­se­cuted Mus­lim mi­nor­ity had been killed since the deadly bor­der raids prompted a se­cu­rity crack­down in north­ern Rakhine State.

Pol Lt Kyaw Aye Hlaing said he could not elab­o­rate on the na­ture of the height­ened se­cu­rity op­er­a­tion un­der way given the po­ten­tial on­go­ing threat posed by the at­tack­ers, scores of whom are be­lieved to be at large.

“I heard that some per­son re­sisted with a gun from in­side a mosque while the Tat­madaw was search­ing for the at­tack­ers and the fight­ing lasted for a while. How­ever, I don’t know the ex­act sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “The down­town area of [Maung­daw] town is sta­ble now.”

At a press con­fer­ence in Nay Pyi Taw on Oc­to­ber 9, se­cu­rity of­fi­cials said the at­tack­ers – who launched their as­sault with swords and spears as well as con­ven­tional firearms – had made off with more than 10,000 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion and dozens of guns. State me­dia said eight mil­i­tants were killed in the Oc­to­ber 9 raids and two oth­ers were cap­tured alive.

Pol Lt Kyaw Aye Hlaing said se­cu­rity forces sweep­ing ru­ral Mus­lim vil­lages had en­coun­tered some re­sis­tance to house checks, and had noted that in sev­eral vil­lages it ap­peared only women and chil­dren re­mained.

“I have no idea why most of the men left from the vil­lages but in the down­town area, Mus­lim peo­ple are liv­ing nor­mally,” he told The Myan­mar Times.

Most shops in Maung­daw’s down­town area none­the­less re­mained shut­tered yes­ter­day and se­cu­rity per­son­nel are main­tain­ing a heavy pres­ence in the town­ship. Ac­cord­ing to state me­dia, troops have been de­ployed to Rakhine by he­li­copter.

All of Maung­daw and neigh­bour­ing Buthi­daung town­ships’ schools were closed yes­ter­day.

Daw Tin Tin Win, a res­i­dent of Maung­daw town­ship, con­firmed that down­town Maung­daw was sta­ble, with both Bud­dhists and Mus­lims on the streets – al­beit few in num­ber.

“Ex­cept for dur­ing cur­few time, peo­ple are go­ing about as nor­mal. But we have a lit­tle bit of worry be­cause the town is like a ghost town,” she said.

Daw Hnin Aye Wai, a res­i­dent of Kyane Choung vil­lage, about 12 kilo­me­tres (7.5 miles) from down­town Maung­daw, said de­spite feel­ing rel­a­tively se­cure dur­ing the day­light hours, she in­tended to spend the night at a po­lice sta­tion.

“My vil­lage is next to a Mus­lim vil­lage and we could not sleep at home dur­ing the night be­cause of the need for se­cu­rity. There­fore we will go to the po­lice sta­tion at night,” she said.

U Hla Myint, an ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer for Maung­daw town­ship, told The Myan­mar Times that the state gov­ern­ment had de­liv­ered no or­ders other than the ex­ten­sion of a cur­few from 7pm to 6am. The pre­vi­ous cur­few, which had been in place since vi­o­lence be­tween Bud­dhists and Mus­lims in 2012, was from 11pm to 4am.

“We are tight­en­ing se­cu­rity ev­ery­where be­cause of the state of anx­i­ety caused by the seized arms. Find­ing them is a pri­or­ity,” he said.

State me­dia pro­vided an ac­count of the at­tacks yes­ter­day, re­port­ing that the first, on a Kyikan Pyin vil­lage guard post, be­gan at about 1am on Oc­to­ber 9. A sec­ond hit Kotankauk out­post in neigh­bour­ing Rathedaung town­ship, and the last as­sailants with­drew from the Ngakhuya out­post at about 5:45am.

Of­fi­cials said drug traf­fick­ing might be a pos­si­ble mo­ti­va­tion for the as­sault, not­ing that au­thor­i­ties seized more than 6 mil­lion yaba pills in Maung­daw last month.

Un­like most of Rakhine State, a ma­jor­ity of Maung­daw town­ship’s pop­u­la­tion are self-iden­ti­fy­ing Ro­hingya Mus­lims. Ten­sions be­tween that largely state­less com­mu­nity and Rakhine Bud­dhists have per­sisted more than four years after the 2012 vi­o­lence tore through Rakhine State, dis­plac­ing more than 100,000 peo­ple.

Not­ing the sen­si­tive na­ture of the lat­est con­flict in the state, In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter U Pe Myint said of­fi­cials had called the Oc­to­ber 9 press con­fer­ence in an at­tempt to dis­sem­i­nate ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion about the sit­u­a­tion and quash any ru­mours, which have in the past trig­gered in­ter-reli­gious strife.

Of­fi­cials at the press con­fer­ence did not say what the as­sailants’ af­fil­i­a­tion might be, but some po­lice have linked the Ro­hingya Sol­i­dar­ity Or­gan­i­sa­tion to the co­or­di­nated at­tack.

A 2014 re­port by the Brus­sels-based 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”.

“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.

Photo: AFP

An armed bor­der guard se­cures a camp in Maung­daw.

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