State counsellor pledges ‘fair’ handling of Rakhine unrest
Three days after a deadly assault on border police posts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships, authorities remain tight-lipped about who was behind the violence as the interrogation of several suspects continues.
STATE Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday weighed in for the first time on the deadly border attacks and subsequent manhunt for the perpetrators unfolding this week in northern Rakhine State, saying her government would ensure it has all the facts before pinning any blame.
“We will conduct a fair and square [investigation] under the rule of law. As long as we are not clear what is what, we won’t accuse anyone,” she said at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nay Pyi Taw. “When there is solid evidence, we will indict if we think it should be done.”
Meanwhile in Rakhine State, an interrogation of two men – caught during the coordinated assault on three border police posts on October 9 – is ongoing, according to a senior police official in the state. They are being held in Sittwe Prison, he said.
U Khin Kyaw, deputy chief of the Rakhine State Police, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that it was too early to determine the two men’s affiliation, the subject of much speculation since the attacks.
“We have opened a court case against them and the court will try the case,” he said.
According to state media, the October 9 attacks, which killed nine border guard officers, began at about 1am on a Kyikan Pyin village guard post in Maungdaw township. A second strike targeted the Kotankauk outpost in neighbouring Rathedaung township, and the last assailants retreated from the Ngakhuya outpost at about 5:45am.
The assailants’ affiliation, if any, has not yet been revealed by senior figures in government, though lowerlevel officials have put forward drug traffickers and a Rohingya militant group thought to be defunct as possible guilty parties.
Four additional suspects have been apprehended, state media reported yesterday: two on October 11 and two on October 10. The men detained on October 11 were identified as Andra Mular Kein and Mawlawi Fordita Laung, according to The Global New Light of Myanmar. It did not name the other two suspects.
The state-owned daily also reported an attack by 300 armed men on Tatmadaw troops who were combing Pyaungpit village in Maungdaw township on October 11. Four soldiers were killed in the ambush.
Tatmadaw soldiers and police personnel have come under fire multiple times since they launched a crackdown in northern Rakhine State to root out the October 9 assailants, scores of whom are believed still at large. Dozens of firearms were seized by the attackers during the raids.
U Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office, told Myanmar Now that security forces were struggling to distinguish between innocent civilians in the search area and militants.
A total of 29 people have died in the recent clashes, according to state media, police and government sources, including troops, attackers and the border guards killed in the October 9 raids.
A curfew in the state is being enforced from 7pm to 6am.
U Tin Maung Swe, secretary of the Rakhine State government, told The Voice yesterday that the attackers had been planning the raids for three months. He added that two men suspected of involvement in the attacks, who fled across the border into Bangladesh, were arrested by the Border Guards Bangladesh and transferred back to Myanmar authorities yesterday.
The recent unrest has raised the spectre of a repeat of 2012, when violence in Rakhine State left more than 100 people dead and drove tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims into displacement camps. Unlike most of Rakhine, the majority in the northern part of the state self-identify as Rohingya, and tensions between Rakhine Buddhists and the largely stateless Muslim minority have persisted throughout the state since the violence four years ago.
The UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, Renata LokDessallien, issued a statement yesterday condemning the border post attacks and offering her condolences to the slain victims’ families, while adding that she “is also very concerned about the unfolding situation and has conveyed this to the government”.
“The UN continues to follow the situation, urging that rule of law be fully respected, civilians be protected and all efforts made to deescalate tensions. The UN hopes this situation can be resolved quickly so that the people in Rakhine State can move forward the peaceful, prosperous and harmonious future they all deserve,” said the statement.
A contingent of Union cabinet officials, Myanmar’s chief of police and the Rakhine State chief minister, who met with local leaders in Sittwe on October 11, travelled to Maungdaw yesterday to observe the situation on the ground, even as others decamped to the state capital.
Teachers and government workers have fled northern Rakhine State, with crowds huddled yesterday on the jetty in Sittwe after arriving by boat from near the Bangladesh border. –
A police officer (right) patrols a river jetty in Sittwe yesterday as crowds of teachers and civil servants arrive in the Rakhine State capital after fleeing conflict in Maungdaw township.
Border police patrol Wei Thar Li village in Maungdaw township, Rakhine State, near the border with Bangladesh yesterday.