Tat­madaw de­fends killing in Rakhine as self-de­fense

Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials have ex­e­cuted 30 at­tack­ers in re­sponse to vi­o­lence at bor­der posts in north­ern Rakhine State, with a se­nior Tat­madaw of­fi­cial claim­ing the lethal force was nec­es­sary.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - HTOO THANT NYAN LYNN AUNG

A SE­NIOR mil­i­tary of­fi­cial yes­ter­day de­fended se­cu­rity forces’ use of lethal force in Rakhine State, say­ing re­cent killings were an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse in cases where they have en­coun­tered weapons-wield­ing hos­tiles.

Colonel Zaw Min Tun of the Of­fice of the Com­man­der-in-Chief was speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence in Nay Pyi Taw to ad­dress the co­or­di­nated Oc­to­ber 9 as­sault on Myan­mar Bor­der Po­lice posts in Maung­daw and Rathedaung town­ships and the on­go­ing man­hunt for the per­pe­tra­tors that has fol­lowed.

“In this case, they at­tacked po­lice who are work­ing for re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity and the rule of law. We pro­tect the lives of po­lice,” said Col Zaw Min Tun, re­fer­ring to sev­eral killings over the past week as se­cu­rity forces have cracked down in the ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim re­gion. “Their at­tacks would se­ri­ously im­pact re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity, and the rule of law ... Thus, we have no choice but to shoot them.”

All told, 30 “at­tack­ers”, in­clud­ing two women, have been killed by se­cu­rity forces, said Ma­jor Gen­eral Aung Soe, deputy min­is­ter for home af­fairs. Ca­su­al­ties have also in­cluded five mil­i­tary mem­bers and the nine po­lice of­fi­cers killed in the orig­i­nal at­tack. Au­thor­i­ties have so far de­tained 12 sus­pected mil­i­tants, in­clud­ing two men ar­rested across the bor­der and trans­ferred into cus­tody by Bangladesh, ac­cord­ing to Maj Gen Aung Soe.

Speak­ing to The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day, Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Kyaw Swe of­fered a dif­fer­ing tally of de­tainees, putting the fig­ure at 16.

Most if not all of the sus­pected at­tack­ers are self-iden­ti­fy­ing Ro­hingya Mus­lims, with the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice last week de­scrib­ing the at­tacks as “in­tended to pro­mote ex­trem­ist vi­o­lent ide­ol­ogy among the ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion in the area”.

Ac­cord­ing to an Oc­to­ber 14 state­ment from the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice that iden­ti­fied the per­pe­tra­tors as be­long­ing to a group called Aqa Mul Mu­jahidin, “The at­tacks in Maung­daw town­ship were sys­tem­at­i­cally planned in ad­vance over a long pe­riod of time, as­sisted by for­eign fund­ing and the sup­port of mem­bers of for­eign ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions.”

Nearly 400 mil­i­tants could owe al­le­giance to Aqa Mul Mu­jahidin, said the state­ment, iden­ti­fy­ing the group’s leader as Hav­is­toohar, a mil­i­tant from Kyaukpyin­seik vil­lage, Maung­daw town­ship, with pre­vi­ous train­ing from the Tal­iban in Pak­istan.

Yes­ter­day se­nior cabi­net of­fi­cial U Kyaw Tint Swe said he had spo­ken to the In­done­sian am­bas­sador about the un­fold­ing crack­down in north­ern Rakhine State and had re­ceived his sup­port and a pledge that Jakarta would re­spect Myan­mar’s sovereignty and would not seek to in­ter­fere in a do­mes­tic mat­ter. ASEAN’s other ma­jor­i­tyMus­lim mem­ber states also sup­ported the se­cu­rity op­er­a­tion now un­der way, he added.

The Bangladeshi em­bassy in Yangon re­leased a state­ment on Oc­to­ber 16 of­fer­ing con­do­lences to the slain and its sup­port and con­tin­ued co­op­er­a­tion with Myan­mar au­thor­i­ties.

Lt Gen Kyaw Swe sounded a tough line this week, say­ing there would be zero tol­er­ance for anti-gov­ern­ment mil­i­tancy in Rakhine State.

“This is a com­bat area,” he told The Myan­mar Times. “There­fore we must be op­er­at­ing in­ten­sively. We must not ac­cept any ag­gres­sion un­equiv­o­cally.”

“We must op­er­ate to get back the arms and seek jus­tice for those who killed our guards,” he added, re­fer­ring to dozens of guns and thou­sands of rounds of am­mu­ni­tion seized by the mil­i­tants dur­ing the Oc­to­ber 9 raids.

Maung­daw and Rathedaung town­ships – where the at­tacks on three Bor­der Guard Po­lice took place – as well as Buthi­daung town­ship have been des­ig­nated “op­er­a­tional ar­eas” for the mil­i­tary. Sec­tion 144 has also been in­voked for the re­gion, ban­ning all forms of pub­lic as­sem­bly.

State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi last week pledged to han­dle the sit­u­a­tion in Rakhine State “fairly” and in ac­cor­dance with the rule of law, but a group of 16 Ro­hingya ad­vo­cacy groups re­leased a state­ment on Oc­to­ber 16 that al­leged au­thor­i­ties’ se­cu­rity crack­down has been rife with hu­man rights abuses that amounted to “crimes against hu­man­ity”.

“Since 9 Oc­to­ber, un­der the pre­text of look­ing for at­tack­ers, the Myan­mar mil­i­tary and po­lice forces have been in­dis­crim­i­nately killing the Ro­hingya, torch­ing and plun­der­ing their homes and vil­lages,” read a joint state­ment from the groups. “Two mass graves were found and about 100 Ro­hingya civil­ians were ex­tra-ju­di­cially killed that in­cluded old men, women and chil­dren.”

The state­ment did not at­tribute its al­le­ga­tions to a spe­cific source.

State me­dia has also re­ported the burn­ing of some vil­lages in Maung­daw town­ship, but the of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion was that the ar­son was per­pe­trated by mil­i­tants.

The gov­ern­ment has sought to tightly con­trol the flow of in­for­ma­tion com­ing out of Rakhine State, fear­ing that the spread of unchecked ru­mours could lead to the kind of in­ter-re­li­gious vi­o­lence that wracked the state in 2012.

Yes­ter­day’s edi­tion of state-run The Global New Light of Myan­mar of­fered no new re­port­ing on the lat­est de­vel­op­ments in the trou­bled re­gion.

At least one in­di­vid­ual has been pe­nalised for the ap­par­ent se­cu­rity lapse on Oc­to­ber 9, with a po­lice brigadier gen­eral in charge of the Bor­der Guard Po­lice trans­ferred from his post this week. Schools across Maung­daw and Buthi­daung re­main closed and a cur­few is in ef­fect from 7pm to 6am.

Fear of more vi­o­lence has prompted some in ar­eas af­fected by the con­flict to send their wives and chil­dren to the state cap­i­tal Sit­twe.

“Dis­placed peo­ple started ar­riv­ing in Sit­twe four days ago. At the be­gin­ning the num­ber was not too many but now there are more than 800. It seems the num­ber will con­tinue to rise,” said U Thein Tun from a Rakhine so­cial co­or­di­na­tion com­mit­tee. Monas­ter­ies in the state cap­i­tal are tem­po­rar­ily shel­ter­ing those who have fled.

About two-thirds of the dis­placed are chil­dren, and Daw San Thein Nu from Aung Thar­yar vil­lage said the jour­ney to Sit­twe had been marked by hard­ship.

“There are many chil­dren among the dis­placed peo­ple. Some are even in­fants. We waited for three days in Buthi­daung to buy a ferry ticket to travel to Sit­twe. There are peo­ple who are get­ting stuck there be­cause the ferry is al­ready packed,” she said.

Some ex­pressed hope that they could re­turn, if not to their homes then to dis­place­ment camps closer to their vil­lages.

“If refugee camps are opened in Buthi­daung and Maung­daw, we just want to go back be­cause we don’t want our fam­ily liv­ing apart,” said Daw San Thein Aung from Aung Min­galar.

Most of the dis­placed ac­knowl­edge, how­ever, that the sit­u­a­tion at present is still too un­sta­ble for an im­me­di­ate re­turn.

The Rakhine State gov­ern­ment and pri­vate donors have pro­vided rice, cook­ing oil and salt, as well as water­proof can­vases and some money to the dis­placed, said U Thein Tun, while adding that con­cerns re­main about san­i­ta­tion and short­ages of drink­ing wa­ter and medicine. – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Pyae Thet Phyo and Yee Ywal Mint, trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun and Zar Zar Soe

Photo: Kaung Htet

Bor­der Guard Po­lice pa­trol along the bor­der with Bangladesh on Oc­to­ber 15.

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