Arakan State Unrest Heightens Political Concerns

By Htet Naing Zaw 14 October 2016

NAYPYIDAW—Recent attacks on border police posts in Arakan State have heightened public concern over the democratization process and civil-military relations, members of the political community told The Irrawaddy.

Lower House lawmaker U Lwin Ko Latt, of Thanlyin Township, told The Irrawaddy that he is worried about the situation following the deaths of nine policemen, five soldiers, and fifteen other men.

“The military intelligence should have known about [the attacks] before they happened. The Defense Ministry is responsible for that. And under the circumstances, we want [the Burmese military] to only work within the legal framework. I don’t want them to seek political gain out of this,” he said.

“The event is a cause for concern for security. I am also worried if concerned governments will be able to handle this effectively,” said U Lwin Ko Latt.

As the conflict could hamper democratization in Burma, it was important that the government proceed with caution in line with the rule of law, said U Nay Myo Htun, a Lower House lawmaker representing Htantabin Township.

U Ye Htun, a political analyst, said State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi seemed to be exercising caution in handling the issues in Arakan State.

“The military has violated laws in our [Shan] state. I think [the State Counselor] has sent the information minister to Arakan State to gather information on the ground so that she can make a judgment,” said U Ye Htun.

He also suggested sending the Arakan State Advisory Commission led by former UN general secretary Kofi Annan to Arakan State.

Though the ministries of defense, home affairs and border affairs—which are addressing the unrest—fall under military rather than civilian leadership according to the 2008 Constitution, responses are being made under the guidance of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy spokesperson U Win Htein told The Irrawaddy.

“All the information about the Arakan issue reaches her. Though Defense and Home Affairs ministries are under the [army] commander-in-chief according to the Constitution, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi gets on well with them. She has taken the overall responsibility to handle it,” said U Win Htein.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has told the media that the government is doing their best to solve the conflict following the attacks on border posts, and will handle them impartially under the rule of law.

“The Defense Ministry has to take responsibility to handle this transparently. The whole incident must be presented to the public in a transparent manner, otherwise public concern will remain high, because there have been many rumors including those on Facebook,” said U Lwin Ko Latt.

The Irrawaddy contacted the President’s Office, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Border Affairs several times to ask about video files circulated on social media and for the government’s responses to the Arakan issue, but was not able to obtain a comment.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko