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AA Attacks Won’t Destabilize Rakhine Administration nor Prompt Military Takeover: Myanmar Govt

By Htet Naing Zaw 17 June 2020

NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar government said Monday that attacks by the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State neither pose a threat to the administration of the state nor will they cause the military to take administrative control over Rakhine.

“The Rakhine State government is working hard for peace and for its administrative mechanisms to function in the [conflict] area,” said U Myint Than, director-general of the Ministry of the Office of the Union Government at a press conference on Monday in Naypyitaw.

Established in 2009 in Laiza, Kachin State, the AA announced in 2014 its long-term plan to return to its homeland of Rakhine State, saying it would install its own government in Rakhine.

In a statement on May 29, the armed group asked the government and Myanmar military to leave Rakhine now, forever.

U Tin Myint accused the AA of targeting police and administrative officials in order to disrupt government functions in Rakhine. As a result, administrators have resigned in Mrauk-U, Myebon, Minbya and Ponnagyun townships, he said.

“The AA abducted and killed police, attacked police stations and abducted and tortured administrative officials in order to disrupt administration. However, the Rakhine State government is rebuilding its administrative mechanisms according to the instructions of the President’s Office,” he said.

When asked by reporters whether the military would take over administration of Rakhine due to escalating clashes, U Myint Than replied that the situation was not that worrying.

Last year, during intensive fighting between the Myanmar military and the AA, large numbers of village administrators in Mrauk-U, Minbya, Kyauktaw and Rathedaung townships resigned, citing security concerns.

U Tin Myint warned that the government will take legal action against administrative officials who provide cash or other donations to the AA, as the government and military have declared the group a terrorist organization.

Fifty-eight ward and village administrators in Myebon Township submitted their resignations after the Myanmar military filed a lawsuit against three Myebon administrators under the Counter-Terrorism Law for allegedly contacting the AA on June 5.

“The Rakhine State government is taking steps to fill the vacant positions. According to the Ward or Village-tract Administration Law, those who won the second-largest number of votes [in administrator elections] will be appointed temporarily,” said U Myint Than.

He added that if they refuse to take up the positions, there are still administrators for 100-household and 10-household administrative units—which form the lowest level of ward and village-level government—who can fill the positions temporarily.

“I believe they resigned because of instability in the region, not because they wanted to. So I believe they all have the will to serve the community if there is security in the region,” he said.

Maylun Village Administrator U Maung Hla Thein, of Minbya Township, said that village administrators are caught in a Catch-22 situation in Rakhine State between the threats from the Myanmar military and those from the AA. He said that local village administrators have sent complaints to Naypyitaw about the Myanmar military’s killing and abduction of administrators but there has been no response.

“There was no response to our complaints. In cases when something happens, we should be allowed to explain. But we were only shot to death and detained, so no one dares to stay. They can punish the lawbreakers, but innocent people should be released,” he said.

According to Rakhine analyst U Maung Maung Soe, Rakhine is now a contested area as the AA is attempting to establish its own government, which it calls the Arakan People’s Authority.

“Now both sides are attempting to control the administrative mechanisms. The government is struggling to build its administrative mechanisms at a time when village administrators are resigning due to arrests. There is some contest at present,” said U Maung Maung Soe.

Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said the AA is attacking police and police outposts to undermine the functioning of the government in Rakhine.

“The attacks on the institutions that enforce the rule of law are a disruption to the government’s administration,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

Fierce clashes broke out between the Myanmar military and the AA in Rakhine in 2019, and despite calls for peace talks from both sides, military tensions have only escalated in the area.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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