Govt Spokesman Says Fighting in Rakhine a 'Cause for Concern'

By Htet Naing Zaw 12 March 2019

NAYPYITAW — Union government leaders are concerned about the escalating fighting between the Myanmar military and rebel Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State, a government spokesman said.

“It has become a cause for concern not only in terms of security and development, but also in terms of the democratic transition. Leaders will review it and do their best. They have been holding talks,” U Zaw Htay told reporters in Naypyitaw on Monday.

In the latest incident, the AA killed nine police officers and injured two during an attack on the Yoe Tayoke police station in Ponnagyun Township on Saturday. It was the second-deadliest AA attack since the fighting erupted last year; the rebel group killed 13 officers and injured nine in a coordinated attack on four police posts in Buthidaung Township on Jan 4.

Government sources say authorities are likely to impose a curfew in affected areas soon.

U Oo Hla Saw, secretary of the Arakan National Party, blamed the fighting on government mismanagement, the lack of jobs and the stalled national peace process and said civilians were bearing the brunt of the violence.

“There are no job opportunities in Rakhine and democratic reforms have failed. And because the Union government has failed to handle the Rakhine issue effectively, radicalism is on the rise,” he said.

“If people have a lot of trust in democracy and the Panglong [Peace] Conference, the armed revolution will fall. This is happening because there is little trust,” he added.

U Zaw Htay said the government remains open to peace talks with the AA but insists that the rebel group promise to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, which 10 other armed groups have signed to date.

“Only with that promise can we move forward. We have made that clear,” he said.

The AA launched its offensive in Rakhine in November, shortly after it released a statement offering to lay down its arms and join the formal peace process along with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.

“People are in a state of panic in Rakhine State. Now students are sitting the matriculation exam, and I heard that they are shocked [by the latest AA attack] and don’t feel safe. We are sorry to hear that” U Zaw Htay said.

AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha could not be reached for comment.

The fighting has spread to Rathaedaung, Buthidang, Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun and Mrauk-U townships and displaced about 10,000 people.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.