Govt Spokesperson Denies Establishment of People’s Militias in Rakhine

By Htet Naing Zaw 16 August 2017

NAYPYITAW — Spokesperson from the Myanmar President’s Office U Zaw Htay has denied that the government will establish people’s militias in Rakhine State.

“We are paying special attention to countering terrorism and the security of the local people. But speaking of the formation of people’s militias, I want to make it clear that it is not the policy of the government,” U Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) government stated after taking office in 2016 that it had no plan to establish paramilitary forces in Rakhine State, the spokesperson added.

There have been media reports, which quoted the chairman of Sittwe Township NLD chapter U San Shwe Kyaw, about a government plan to provide arms and military training to ethnic Arakanese Buddhists in the state’s northern township of Maungdaw.

According to U Zaw Htay, Myanmar Army troops have been conducting security operations in the Mayu mountain range in cooperation with border police, following talks between State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and military leaders.

Sittwe District NLD chairman U Thinn Kha Kyaw told The Irrawaddy that U San Shwe Kyaw’s statement did not represent the party.

“There are only three spokespersons for the NLD in Rakhine State—the chairman of the Rakhine State NLD, me and another one. U San Shwe Kyaw is not a spokesperson. We only knew about it after the media reported it. It is just his personal view,” he said.

On Sunday, Buddhist monks and locals took to the streets in 15 Rakhine State townships, demanding that the government provide greater security and arm local Buddhists, citing a fear of Muslim militants.

The Irrawaddy was not able to obtain a comment from Rakhine State chief minister U Nyi Pu and spokesperson of the Rakhine State government U Min Aung on Wednesday.

Members of the Arakan National Party (ANP), which holds the majority of seats in the Rakhine State parliament, made the suggestion during a meeting with Myanmar Army Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing last week to arm Arakanese youth, but the army chief did not give a clear answer.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko