President Convenes Top-Level Security Meeting in Wake of AA Attacks

By The Irrawaddy 8 January 2019

President U Win Myint led a high-level coordination meeting on national security and current international relations on Monday afternoon in Naypyitaw, following the Arakan Army (AA)’s attacks on four police outposts in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township on Jan. 4, which left 14 police officers dead.

All 11 members of the National Defense and Security Council—the president; State Counselor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; both of the Union vice presidents; the speakers of both houses of the Union Parliament; the Army chief; the deputy Army chief; and the ministers of Home Affairs, Defense, and Border Affairs—were present, together with the ministers of the Office of the State Counselor; the Office of the Union Government; Investment and Foreign Economic Relations; and International Cooperation, according to the President’s Office.

The government avoided describing the gathering an official NDSC meeting due to the presence of the additional Union ministers from new ministries formed under the NLD, as well as the chairman of the Peace Commission and chief of Military Security Affairs.

President’s Office spokesman U Zaw Htay said the meeting focused on developments in the security situation in the wake of the Tatmadaw’s declaration of a four-month truce and the AA’s attacks on the police outposts, which came as Myanmar marked its Independence Day.

He said the AA’s actions did nothing to help the government’s efforts to develop Rakhine State and reduce conflict in the area.

“The leaders reviewed the [AA] attacks on the police stations and decided what steps to take, in terms of both an immediate response and a long-term plan,” U Zaw Htay said.

“Following the attacks, the President’s Office has instructed the Defense Ministry [which oversees the Army] to increase troop deployments in the areas where the police stations were attacked on Friday and to use aircraft if necessary. The Tatmadaw is following these instructions, as well as carrying out military operations against AA insurgents,” the spokesman said.

He accused the AA of “taking advantage” of the fact that Rakhine State is being watched closely by the international community in the wake of military operations against the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which conducted deadly coordinated attacks against security forces in 2016 and 2017.

The government’s Peace Commission has been holding informal talks with the AA, which—along with two others groups, the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army—pledged a month ago to enter political negotiations and give up its armed struggle.

The Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw)’s unilateral ceasefire announced on Dec. 22 did not apply to its Western Military Command in Rakhine State, apparently intensifying the current armed conflict between it and the AA.