YANGON — Myanmar Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing arrived in Rakhine State capital Sittwe on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since militant attacks in late August.
His visit comes amid condemnation from the international community against him and the army for allegedly killing self-identifying Rohingya Muslim civilians and burning their homes in northern Rakhine State in response to the attacks of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
So far, an estimated 420,000 Muslims from Rakhine have fled to Bangladesh, with reports of killings, rape, and destruction of property by government forces.
Home affairs minister Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe, border affairs minister Lt-Gen Ye Aung, air force chief Gen Khin Aung Myint, and other senior military officers accompanied the army chief, the commander-in-chief’s office reported.
According to the office, the commander of the Rakhine Myanmar Army command, and directors of the military engineering and medical services boards briefed them on the security operations, progress on fencing the 170-mile border with Bangladesh, and army healthcare teams helping residents.
About 30,000 Arakanese and Hindus fled to other parts of Rakhine amid fears of more militant attacks, and roughly 4,000 have now returned.
The army chief instructed the staff on getting timely information, as, the statement read, there could not be any more mistakes with security affairs.
He ensured “systematic deployment” of security forces, and the allocation of meals, accommodation and healthcare for locals of Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships.
He stressed the need for providing security with adequate strength and for following the law and disciplines, said the office, adding that he ordered the continued citizenship verification process for issuing the National Verification Cards (NVC) in Rakhine.
Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing landed in Sittwe hours after the State Counselor addressed diplomats in Naypyitaw on the latest Rakhine crisis. She called on the international community to probe the reasons for the mass exodus and condemned all human rights abuses.
Some international observers said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi failed to condemn the military’s alleged crimes against Muslims in Rakhine while local political analysts and politicians welcomed the speech as a fair statement and a bold stance under very complex circumstances.