Arakan State Parliament Forms Commission to Investigate Maungdaw Attacks

By The Irrawaddy 26 October 2016

RANGOON – The Arakan State parliament has formed an investigation commission with 11 regional legislators of different political parties on Monday in order to address the recent Maungdaw Township border police post attacks on October 9.

Six commission members are from the Arakan National Party (ANP), two are from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and one is from the National League for Democracy. There is also a military appointee present and the legal advisor for the regional parliament.

One of the purposes of the commission, according to member U Tun Hla Sein of the USDP, is “to help the indigenous people who fled from the clashes.”

The ANP has in the past used the term “indigenous” to refer to the Arakanese Buddhists in the region, excluding the Muslim population, many of whom self-identify as Rohingya and are labeled as interlopers from Bangladesh, despite also claiming roots in the area.

The Irrawaddy reported that Buddhist Arakanese civilians have fled rural areas of Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships, taking shelter in towns and the state capital of Sittwe; the government has been providing them with food relief. Muslim Rohingya, who have also been reported to be fleeing their homes, have not been able to take advantage of this aid, and have been restricted from entering regional towns—a community leader told The Irrawaddy that they have instead sought refuge in jungle areas.

U Tun Hla Sein said that the commission also aims to “present the real scenes of the attacks” on the police outposts. These skirmishes, along with the manhunt that followed, led to the death of nine police officers, five soldiers, and 32 alleged attackers. As of Monday, 51 suspects had been arrested.

The commission will deliver its initial report to the state parliament within two weeks and the tenure of commission is regarded as ending on December 31. When the state parliament has completed its discussion of the report, it will encourage further engagement at the Union level, said ANP lawmaker U Kyaw Zaw Oo.

The commission is not related to the Kofi Annan-led Arakan State Advisory Commission formed by Burma’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to explore the root causes of interreligious tension and episodes of violence in the region.