MAUNGDAW, Rakhine State — Police are establishing four new border force regiments in northern Rakhine State’s Maungdaw District to improve security, mostly on top of recently razed Rohingya villages.
An Irrawaddy reporter joined 13 other local journalists on a two-day guided tour of Maungdaw over the weekend organized by the government. U Ye Htut, of the Home Affairs Ministry’s Government Administration Department (GAD), said three of the bases were being established in Maungdaw Township and the fourth in neighboring Buthidaung Township.
Several government officials told The Irrawaddy that authorities were quickly transforming hundreds of acres for a base in Myo Thu Gyi village, about 1.6 km from downtown Maungdaw. Since December, authorities have demolished all but a few government buildings in the village, once home to some 8,600 Muslims.
Nearly 700,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled northern Rakhine to Bangladesh since militant attacks on security force posts across the region triggered a massive military crackdown that has drawn accusations of ethnic cleansing from the UN and US.
Security officials said they were working on the Myo Thu Gyi base with haste because they feared that militants might try to target Maungdaw or surrounding villages.
Another of the four bases is being built in Maungdaw Township’s Kyein Chaung town, a mixed community of Rakhine, Rohingya, Hindus and Christians before the August attacks. A local GAD official, Win Naing Than, said authorities selected about 200 acres for the base in the neighborhood of Aung Sit Pyin. Muslim sources in the area said nearly 10,000 Rohingya used to live on the site, but all fled to Bangladesh in late 2017.
On the government-led tour, a large part of the site could be seen cleared of all structures. A government official denied that the site had included any areas that were burned down in the violence that followed the August attacks, though a construction worker told The Irrawaddy that crews had bulldozed some charred structures and have built a 30-meter-wide road through Aung Sit Pyin.
Another base is under construction in southern Maungdaw’s Inn Din village, which was also heavily populated by Rohingya before the latest outbreak of violence. The Irrawaddy reported on the base under construction in Buthidaung in February, likewise over land recently occupied by Rohingya.
U Ye Htut said authorities have cleared about 10 villages in Maungdaw District in all to make way either for the bases or other plans to redistribute Muslim and Buddhist populations.
The Irrawaddy counted at least a dozen villages along a roughly 140-km stretch of highway running through Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships that were completely or partially cleared with heavy machinery.
They included Aung Sit Pyin, Ba Ka Ohn Nar, Chain Khar Lee, Inn Din, Myo Thu Gyi, Oh Tan, three villages in the Kyee Kan Pyin village tract, and two villages in the Maung Hnama village tract.