Over 80 Percent of Village GAD Officials in Northern Rakhine Township Resign

By Moe Myint 1 March 2019

YANGON — Eighty-nine village General Administration Department (GAD) officials from northern Rakhine State’s strife-torn Mrauk-U Township resigned from their posts on Friday for fear of arrest.

The township has a total 103 villages, meaning 86 percent lost their GAD officials today.

The mass resignation is the second in as many months in northern Rakhine State, after more than 30 village GAD officials in Rathedaung Township resigned in January.

One of the officials who resigned Friday, U Sein Kyaw Aung, of Kyauk Kyat Village, said they stepped down after the arrest of four GAD officials in Mrauk-U on Thursday while attending a monthly township GAD meeting.

Owing to its collection of ancient temples, Mrauk-U is among of the more popular tourist destinations in Rakhine, but intense fighting between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA) has engulfed the area since early this year.

“We are afraid of arbitrary detention, like what happened yesterday,” U Sein Kyaw Aung told The Irrawaddy.

Village GAD officials submit their resignation letters in Mrauk-U, Rakhine State, on Friday. / Kyaw Hla Myint / Facebook

He said two police officers came to the Mrauk-U Township GAD office on Thursday and took the four officials and a fifth person to the township police station for questioning.

U Sein Kyaw Aung said the officials were from the villages of Pyaing Gya, Pauk Pin Gwin, Yan Aung Pyin and Kyaukse Pyin, and that the township GAD official, U Maung Thar Sein, claimed no not know that they would be arrested in advance.

The Mrauk-U Township GAD office could not be reached for comment.

Another GAD official who resigned Friday, U Wai Hla Aung, of Tein Nyo Village, said the four officials arrested Thursday were also sued under Article 17 (1) of the Unlawful Associations Act this morning and being detained in Mrauk-U.

“We felt unsafe because they detained the village administrators without any reason, so we decided to submit resignation letters,” he said.

He said they have already handed in the letters at the township and district GAD offices.

Rakhine State lawmaker U Tun Thar Sein said the village officials called to inform him of their plans to resign on Thursday and returned various office supplies including documents and stamps today.

Government stamps returned by village GAD officials lay on the floor of the Mrauk-U Township GAD office in northern Rakhine State on Friday. Kyaw Hla Myint / Facebook

Village GAD officials are authorized to issue travel documents to people without National Registration Cards, recommendation letter to citizens and household registration documents. They also send weekly and monthly reports about their villages to their superiors.

“The actions of the police are beyond the procedures. If someone violates the existing laws, they should take action in line” with those procedures, said U Tun Thar Sein.

“It seems the bureaucracy will come to a halt as of today because they returned their GAD stamps and documents,” he added.

The GAD had been under the authority of the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs until December, when the government moved it to the Ministry of the Offices of the Union Government, which is run by the civilian administration.

Mrauk-U resident Ko Zaw Tun said the arrest of the officials without advance notice to the township GAD officials was a sign that the two ministries were not getting along. He suggested that State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urge the military’s Western Command to call a truce with the AA and try to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the rebel group.