Po­lice buried as mil­i­tary tight­ens con­trol in Rakhine

Rakhine lead­ers urge the gov­ern­ment to take strong ac­tion against as­sailants who at­tacked se­cu­rity posts on Oc­to­ber 9, while Mus­lim ad­vo­cacy or­gan­i­sa­tions call for re­straint.

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

A CON­TIN­GENT of Union cab­i­net of­fi­cials were joined by Myan­mar’s chief of po­lice and the Rakhine State chief min­is­ter for a meet­ing yes­ter­day with Rakhine el­ders and lo­cal po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Sit­twe as the north­ern part of their state con­tin­ues to reel from a deadly as­sault on bor­der se­cu­rity posts this week.

The min­is­ters for in­for­ma­tion, im­mi­gra­tion, se­cu­rity and bor­der af­fairs, and the State Coun­sel­lor’s Of­fice were dis­patched to the Rakhine State cap­i­tal to dis­cuss the re­cent vi­o­lence, which saw three se­cu­rity posts at­tacked by un­known as­sailants, killing nine po­lice of­fi­cers.

Rakhine com­mu­nity lead­ers urged the gov­ern­ment to take strong ac­tion against the armed at­tack­ers – who raided out­posts in Maung­daw and Rathedaung town­ships – by co­op­er­at­ing with the Tat­madaw and po­lice force.

U Than Shwe, an elder from a Rakhine com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion, said the deadly ef­fec­tive­ness of the raids was the re­sult of lax se­cu­rity in the re­gion, which bor­ders Bangladesh. With many of the as­sailants still at large – and hav­ing seized a size­able cache of weapons and am­mu­ni­tion – he said com­mu­ni­ties in Rakhine State were anx­ious, fear­ing that ad­di­tional at­tacks could be in the off­ing.

“The case is not a nor­mal case. Or­di­nary peo­ple’s con­cerns re­late to the as­sorted stolen arms. It is very dan­ger­ous. The gov­ern­ment should take se­vere ac­tion,” said U Than Shwe.

U San Shwe, chair of the Sit­twe chap­ter of the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party, sim­i­larly urged a swift in­ves­ti­ga­tion and re­sponse to the raids.

But with troop re­in­force­ments be­ing he­li­coptered in to an in­creas­ingly mil­i­tarised re­gion, For­tify Rights, a Bangkok-based hu­man rights ad­vo­cacy group, has urged re­straint.

“Swift ac­tion should in­volve re­spect for hu­man rights and pro­tec­tion for civil­ians,” Matthew Smith, the group’s founder, told The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day. “Too of­ten we’ve seen the po­lice and army com­mit vi­o­lent abuses against Ro­hingya in the con­text of se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions in north­ern Rakhine.”

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 in­ter-re­li­gious vi­o­lence tore through Rakhine State in 2012, dis­plac­ing more than 100,000 peo­ple.

Not­ing the sen­si­tive na­ture of the lat­est con­flict in the state, Min­is­ter for In­for­ma­tion U Pe Myint said at an Oc­to­ber 9 press con­fer­ence in Nay Pyi Taw that the event had been called in an at­tempt to dis­sem­i­nate ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion about the sit­u­a­tion and quash any ru­mours, which have in the past trig­gered strife be­tween Bud­dhists and Mus­lims.

U Pe Myint yes­ter­day im­plored Rakhine res­i­dents of both Bud­dhist and Mus­lim faiths to re­main calm, as­sur­ing the pub­lic that the civil­ian gov­ern­ment was work­ing in co­op­er­a­tion with se­cu­rity forces in or­der to avoid any “un­nec­es­sary con­flict” be­tween the two com­mu­ni­ties.

“This is a good op­por­tu­nity for us in a bad sit­u­a­tion – that we can con­sider a re­view of state de­vel­op­ment and se­cu­rity in fu­ture. We need peo­ple’s sup­port to man­age the state,” said U Nyi Pu, the Rakhine State chief min­is­ter.

U Min Aung, head of the Rakhine State In­for­ma­tion Depart­ment, told The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day that the state gov­ern­ment was not re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion about the sit­u­a­tion on the ground in Maung­daw, but added that the state min­is­ter for se­cu­rity and bor­der af­fairs was there help­ing to over­see se­cu­rity forces’ re­sponse to the at­tack.

With the Tat­madaw de­ploy­ing ad­di­tional troops to the re­gion via he­li­copter, he said sta­bil­ity was re­turn­ing.

U Hla Myint, an ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer for Maung­daw township, said the sit­u­a­tion there yes­ter­day was be­gin­ning to nor­malise, point­ing to the re­open­ing of tea shops that had closed in the vi­o­lence’s af­ter­math as an in­di­ca­tor.

“It is just po­lice left at [Maung­daw] town for se­cu­rity and all mil­i­tary troops are away track­ing [the mil­i­tants] now. We did not hear any fight­ing to­day,” he said.

Still, an ex­tended cur­few an­nounced fol­low­ing the at­tack re­mains in place – from 7pm to 6am – and more than 400 schools were closed for a sec­ond day yes­ter­day.

Ac­cord­ing to state media, the Oc­to­ber 9 at­tacks be­gan at about 1am on a Kyikan Pyin vil­lage guard post. A sec­ond strike tar­geted the Kotankauk out­post in neigh­bour­ing Rathedaung township, and the last as­sailants with­drew from the Ngakhuya out­post at about 5:45am.

Eight at­tack­ers were killed as se­cu­rity forces re­pelled them, and state media yes­ter­day said four more “vi­o­lent armed at­tack­ers” were killed on Oc­to­ber 10 as po­lice and sol­diers combed Myothagyi vil­lage in Maung­daw township. A township po­lice of­fi­cer, how­ever, told The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day that seven sus­pected mil­i­tants had been killed in the man­hunt that has fol­lowed the co­or­di­nated Oc­to­ber 9 as­sault.

State media said two mil­i­tants were also cap­tured alive dur­ing the raids and Agence France-Presse pub­lished pho­to­graphs yes­ter­day pur­port­edly show­ing one of those men be­ing interrogated by po­lice. The news wire said the pho­tos were taken on Oc­to­ber 9 in Sit­twe.

U Zaw Htay, deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice, said the gov­ern­ment would soon de­clare who per­pe­trated the at­tack, once it has defini­tively de­ter­mined those in­volved.

Of­fi­cials have 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.

U Kyaw Min, chair of the Democ­racy and Hu­man Rights Party, which pre­dom­i­nantly courts Mus­lim con­stituen­cies, told The Myan­mar Times that the party con­demned this week’s at­tacks.

“We want peace. We de­nounce ev­ery at­tack and want to say to Mus­lim peo­ple, ‘Don’t be in­volved in any at­tacks,’” he said. – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by An­drew D Kas­par

‘It is just po­lice left at [Maung­daw] town ... All mil­i­tary troops are away track­ing [mil­i­tants] now.’

U Hla Myint Maung­daw ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer

Photo: AFP

Po­lice pre­pare flag-draped coffins bear­ing the bod­ies of nine bor­der guards dur­ing a fu­neral cer­e­mony in Maung­daw township, Rakhine State, on Oc­to­ber 11.

Photo: AFP

A sus­pected at­tacker in re­cent bor­der raids is pho­tographed at a po­lice sta­tion in Sit­twe, Rakhine State, on Oc­to­ber 9.

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