ANP Asks Army Chief to Segregate Ethnic Communities in Maungdaw

By Htet Naing Zaw 10 August 2017

NAYPYITAW — The Arakan National Party (ANP) urged Myanmar Army Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing to segregate Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township in the aftermath of killings of ethnic Mro people in the south of the township.

A seven-member ANP delegation visited the military chief in administrative capital Naypyitaw on Wednesday to discuss local concerns and called for heightened security measures in Rakhine State.

“Ethnic [Rakhine] villages are surrounded by Bengali villages, so, we called for designating No-Bengali zones in the area,” U Khin Maung Latt of the ANP, who was at the meeting, told The Irrawaddy.

The stateless Rohingya Muslim population of 1.1 million in Rakhine is referred to as “Bengali” by many in the state and the government, to infer that they are interlopers from Bangladesh.

Tension has been running high recently between the two communities, who remain largely separated since inter-communal violence in 2012 and 2013 displaced around 140,000 people, the vast majority of them Muslim Rohingya.

Myanmar Army-led security operations, in response to attacks on border guard posts that killed nine police, drove 75,000 Rohingya across the border to Bangladesh and “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity, according to the UN.

The commander-in-chief did not give a clear response to the request, according to attendees.

ANP secretary U Oo Hla Saw, who was also present at the meeting, said the party requested to meet the army chief as the military is responsible for national security.

The ANP elaborated on the concerns of ethnic Rakhine people and recent militant acts in the area, and the army chief seemed to be keen to provide the best security he could for ethnic Rakhine people, he said.

“The army chief said he would fully protect ethnic groups in Rakhine State and that he would take care of the routes that [immigrants] use to come in illegally, and make sure the Mayu mountains are not used by militants,” said U Oo Hla Saw, who is a Lower House member of parliament for Mrauk U Township.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page said the two sides discussed further cooperation for stability and development in Rakhine State.

The ANP delegation said the ruling party National League for Democracy (NLD) and the army have different views on the Rakhine issue.

Also on Wednesday, the Upper House agreed to consider U Khin Maung Latt’s proposal which urged the government to take action against suspected militants in northern Rakhine State under the 2014 Counter-Terrorism Law and help locals who have fled their homes because of recent killings in the area.

Last week, six ethnic Mro—a sub-ethnic group of Rakhine—of Kay Gyee village near the Mayu mountain range in southern Maungdaw Township were found dead with gun and machete wounds. It remains unclear who was responsible for the killings.

The State Counselor’s Office reported hundreds of ethnic Rakhine from several villages had left their homes and moved to other villages following the unrest.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing remarked that ethnic youth should “cooperate” with security forces, according to ANP delegates, when asked about providing arms for local people.

Also present at the meeting was deputy commander-in-chief of defense services and army commander-in-chief Vice-Snr-Gen Soe Win and chief of general staff (army, navy and air) Gen Mya Tun Oo. The ANP delegation was headed by chairman Dr. Aye Maung.

The Myanmar government on Sunday, in its investigation report into the Rakhine security operation, repeated rejections of accusations of human rights abuses, calling reports of possible genocide “fabricated.”

The government continues to block a UN fact-finding mission tasked with investigating alleged atrocities—including extra judicial killings, arson, and rape—committed by Myanmar Army and police during the Rakhine security campaign that began last year.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.