Lower House to Debate Rakhine Security Measures

By Htet Naing Zaw 21 August 2017

NAYPYITAW — The Lower House agreed on Friday to consider a proposal calling for tighter security measures in northern Rakhine State.

Arakan National Party (ANP) lawmaker Daw Khin Saw Wai of Rathedaung Township urged the Union government to intensify administrative and security methods.

She cited killings in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships which she blamed on “extremist groups,” using the prefix “Bengali,” a term for Rohingya Muslims implying they are interlopers from Bangladesh.

“Those crimes have seriously impacted the security of state, rule of law, territorial integrity and lives and property of people,” she told Parliament.

She claimed militants in Rakhine State were cooperating with “international terrorist networks,” posing “a grave threat to the country.”

An insurgent group calling itself Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), also known under its previous name Faith Movement or Harakah al-Yaqin, has been active in the region.

In a statement in March, the ARSA listed its demands, which included the provision of Myanmar citizenship, and access to education, aid, and freedom of movement for the Rohingya population.

It also said it did not associate with terrorist organizations and stressed its attacks are only targeted at “the oppressive Burmese regime.”

Daw Khin Saw Wai echoed the argument of fellow lawmakers from Rakhine that people are afraid to leave their villages in order to fish and farm.

Rohingya Muslim villages surround a cluster of Buddhist villages in the area, she said, comparing the latter’s situation to a “cow at the mercy of a tiger.”

“Therefore, there is a need for prompt measures to be taken to put the situation under control for the sake of sovereignty,” she said.

On Aug. 11, the State Counselor’s Office released a statement on Rakhine State saying 59 people had been murdered in the area and 33 had gone missing this year as of Aug 9, many of which the government had attributed to “terrorists,” although it has not yet been established who was behind the crimes.

Lawmaker U Pe Than of Myebon Township seconded Daw Khin Saw Wai’s proposal, calling for the Union government to strengthen [ethnic Arakanese] villages in the area and “re-build the administrative mechanism” in Rohingya villages of northern Rakhine State.

“If the government can’t do it, there will be no one willing to serve as the village administrator for fear of extremists. Even if there are such people, they have no chance of survival if they are not the henchmen of terrorists,” he told the Parliament.

In the Upper house, lawmakers have been debating an urgent proposal to take action against suspected militants in the north of the state under the 2014 Counter-Terrorism Law, and support locals who have fled their homes because of recent killings in the area.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.