Civilian Murders in Rakhine State ‘Anarchy’: Myanmar Military

By Htet Naing Zaw 11 September 2019

NAYPYITAW—A spokesperson for the Myanmar military has labeled recent murders of civilians in Rakhine State, western Myanmar as anarchist acts, emphasizing the severe impact of the crimes.

More than a dozen civilians have been murdered in Rakhine State since December but the crimes remain unsolved as authorities say they have been unable to identify the suspects or motives.

“Conditions in Rakhine state now resemble anarchy,” said Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun. “Before the Arakan Army [AA] insurgency, these kinds of incidents did not happen in these areas, only in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships.”

The Irrawaddy tried to contact AA Spokesperson Khaing Thuka but was unable to reach him at the time of publication.

The military spokesman emphasized that the murders show how important it is for residents to cooperate with authorities and help end the conflict with the AA.

“It has caused the deterioration of people’s socio-economic conditions. To tackle these issues and to have rule of law, we all have to cooperate,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun. “[People] need to work together with the relevant security forces on counter insurgency campaigns to regain control of the territory.”

Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun added that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militants and their supporters had killed civilians in the Maungdaw area, but not in Mrauk-U, Minbya, An and Ponnagyun townships. The brigadier general was referring to the 2016-17 incidents in which villagers in Maungdaw were accused of cooperating with the government and beheaded.

U Pe Than, a Lower House parliamentarian from Rakhine State’s Myebon constituency, said there were seven killings in his constituency alone in which authorities were unable to identify any suspects.

“The police don’t dare to investigate these murder cases. They do not do their duty to investigate and identify the suspects. Sometimes they don’t even ask questions of people in a community who witnessed the killing,” said U Pe Than.

He added that village administrators in Rakhine State are resigning due to threats to their safety and the recent incident in Kan Htaung Gyi Town, Myebon Township, in which the decapitated bodies of two civilians were left in a highly visible area of a public market. In August, two village administrators were abducted by a group of men in Kyauktaw and later found dead. At least three other village administration officials in Rakhine State have also been killed this year.

“People are too afraid to go outside and make their living. The government needs to investigate these killings and get solid evidence. This will not stop if we just say the AA killed them or the Tatmadaw [the Myanmar military] killed them,” added U Pe Than.

On Monday around midnight, 39-year-old U Khaing from Mae Let Maung Village in An Township was hacked to death by three unidentified men after he was accused by the attackers of working with a local news outlet.

Earlier this month, a grocery store owner and his wife were stabbed to death in their shop near a police outpost in Kyauktaw Township.

Conflict in Rakhine State between the Myanmar military and the AA has intensified since Nov. 2018. The violence has displaced over 50,000 people in Rathaetaung, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun and Mrauk-U townships.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, vice chairman of the National League for Democracy party, has also used strong language to emphasize the military conflict in Rakhine. After a police outpost in Yoe Ta Yoke was attacked on March 9, he said “Rakhine has lost its compassion” because the majority of the victims were ethnic Rakhine. Nine police officers were killed and two were injured in the attacks.

The government has opened criminal cases against four AA officials: Chief of Staff Major General Tun Mrat Naing, Deputy Chief of Staff Dr. Nyo Tun Aung, Colonel Kyaw Han and Spokesman Khaing Thuka under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The AA, along with other members of the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups, met with government peace negotiators in Kengtung, eastern Shan State on Aug. 31 for peace talks following pressure from the Chinese government but the negotiations have been unsuccessful.