Protesters Outside Myanmar Embassy in Tokyo Condemn ‘Silent Genocide’ in Rakhine

By The Irrawaddy 22 October 2019

YANGON—In a move timed to coincide with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Japan, dozens of Arakanese people staged a protest in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Tokyo on Monday afternoon condemning her government for arresting civilians and expanding the conflict in Rakhine State, a campaign they labeled a “silent genocide.”

The State Counselor arrived in Tokyo on Sunday night in order to attend the Japanese emperor’s enthronement ceremony on Tuesday. Upon her arrival, she was welcomed by a group of supporters who held a banner denouncing the planned embassy protest.

The Arakanese protesters claimed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s order to the Myanmar military to completely crush and eradicate the Arakan Army (AA) had caused the conflict in Rakhine State to escalate uncontrollably. At a press conference in Naypyitaw in January, the military cited an order from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to wipe out the AA.

The protesters said their aim was to let the world know the Myanmar army and government have arrested hundreds of Arakanese people on suspicion of ties with the AA, and banned relief shipments to internally displaced persons in Rakhine State.

Ko Kyaw Than Hlaing, chairman of the Arakan Youths Union-Japan, said on Monday that blocking aid to IDPs on suspicion that they were a source of support for the AA was equivalent to committing a “silent genocide” against the Arakanese people.

“There is no way that such aid is intended to support the Arakan Army. Those [relief supplies] are to be delivered to displaced persons.”

The protesters demanded autonomy for the Arakanese people in Rakhine State, access to aid for internally displaced persons in conflict areas, restoration of internet access—which remains blocked at the government’s order in some parts of the state—and the immediate release of jailed Arakanese politician Dr. Aye Maung and other ethnic leaders.

U Tun Myat Khine, who joined the protest from the Japanese city of Nagoya, said the recent escalation in the conflict in Rakhine State has resulted in innocent civilians being unlawfully arrested.

“I demand an end to the arbitrary arrest of Arakanese people in Rakhine State and of those working overseas, with the help of the respective [host] countries, in order to sow fear,” he said, adding that arrests would only boost support for the AA.

In July, Singapore arrested and deported at least six Myanmar nationals accused of fundraising in support of the AA. Myanmar police arrested them shortly after their arrival at Yangon International Airport and sued them under the Terrorism Law.

More than 60,000 people from Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Minbya, Myebon, Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships have fled their homes for makeshift relief resettlements since the fighting between government troops and the AA began intensifying in December last year. 

Last month, the Rakhine State parliament voted to investigate civilian deaths during armed clashes in northern Rakhine State. All state lawmakers except for the military appointees approved the investigation into at least 80 deaths and more than 100 injuries between January and August this year. 

There have also been reports of killings and torture of detained civilians by the Myanmar military.

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