NAYPYITAW — Insurgents of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), a separatist group based in India and seeking to establish a sovereign territory, is threatening the security of Tamu Township in Sagaing Division, according to an Upper House lawmaker.
Parliamentarian U Maung Maung Latt, from Sagaing Division, asked the Union government at the Upper House on Monday to crack down on insurgents of Meitei descent—a majority ethnic group of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur—who are active in Tamu.
He blamed the Myanmar Army and security forces for “failing to protect” locals of Tamu, which shares a 78-mile land border with Manipur.
“The Tatmadaw knows their existence and the deputy minister said that it would take action only when people report it. I assume this is the failure of Tatmadaw and police to protect the lives and property of people,” U Maung Maung Latt told the reporters after the parliamentary session.
The lawmaker said he was aware the local authorities had surveyed the population of Meitei, known as Kathe in Myanmar, in Tamu. He cited a recent confrontation between locals and insurgents who allegedly extorted money at Tamu’s Nan Pha Lon Market, adding that he filed complaints with the district administrator, police, and military officials, but the authorities had not taken action.
Deputy defense minister Maj-Gen Myint Nwe acknowledged the army is responsible for security and police are responsible for the rule of law but said public cooperation is necessary to protect civilians along the whole 1,016 mile-long border with India. He urged the public to inform authorities about news of insurgent acts.
The deputy minister said it is difficult to differentiate civilians from rebels at the border, adding that people on both sides of the border cross daily for business and have a similar culture.
“In such an area, we can do nothing except cooperate on the ground and exchange information,” the deputy minister told The Irrawaddy.
He told the Parliament it was the “long-held policy” of the Tatmadaw to reject any rebel organization rising against neighboring countries or any group helping rebels harbor in Myanmar.
Based on collected intelligence, the Tatmadaw takes action against groups battling the Indian government that exploit the mountainous terrain, sparse population, and poor transportation in the area, said the deputy minister.
U Maung Maung Latt told Parliament he had received information on Monday morning that about 70 male and female rebels were staying at 12 houses in a village just one mile from Tamu.
Maj-Gen Myint Nwe responded that the home affairs ministry would take action “wherever possible” and the Tatmadaw would “always help if necessary.”
The lawmaker said he would collect signatures from locals and submit the petition to the president, the State Counselor and concerned ministries. He was concerned the region would become “the second Rakhine State” if the number of rebels increased.
He said there were frequent killings of civilians in Tamu because of the rebels, as well as arson attacks and the seizures of arms.
The armies of India and Myanmar hold border committee meetings every six months. The 10th national level border committee was held in Sagaing Division’s Kale and Monywa in May, with the commanders of the Myanmar Army’s North-West Command and the Indian Army’s No. 57 Mountain Division in attendance.
The meeting discussed matters related to cross-border crimes, counter-insurgency, border security and development.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.