SITTWE — Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu claimed that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militants are a continuing threat in the restive state.
“There may be around 30 of them who have infiltrated three areas of Rakhine state,” he said, speaking to reporters on Wednesday.
The regional government will tighten security measures as necessary in response, added the chief minister.
ARSA has claimed responsibility for a recent attack on a civilian vehicle carrying patients to a hospital in Maungdaw Township near the village of Turaing on Jan. 5. Official accounts said Rohingya Muslims then ambushed the vehicle and six Myanmar Army soldiers were injured.
ARSA released a statement in which it said it had no choice but to fight state-sponsored terrorism against the Rohingya.
U Zaw Htay, the spokesperson for the President’s Office, told The Irrawaddy that the government will not make public statements on security matters in Rakhine, but that there had been reports of ARSA activities in the area.
U Zaw Htay has previously said that the government has “no policy to negotiate with terrorists.”
“We have ordered that they be responded to in line with the law. If they launch further attacks, they will face what they deserve,” he said.
More than 650,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine State to Bangladesh since August, when ARSA militants staged deadly attacks on security posts, prompting violent clearance operations by the Tatmadaw.
The Rohingya are not listed in Myanmar’s 135 official ethnic groups, and the majority of the country believes they are ‘Bengali,’ illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Yangon-based political analyst U Maung Maung Soe mentioned various routes that ARSA could send its members to infiltrate Rakhine State, warning that there could be possible support in Rohingya villages along the way.
There are around 15 Rohingya villages in Maungdaw and the government should have exerted its executive power on those villages because there may be ARSA supporters in those villages, U Maung Maung Soe suggested.
The Myanmar government and the Tatmadaw have labeled ARSA a terrorist group since it launched attacks on dozens of border police outposts on Aug. 25, 2017.
The President’s Office has also urged the international community to view ARSA as a terrorist organization and to neither support it politically nor financially.
“The government is trying to solve the problem out there. If you support ARSA, our effort there will be hindered,” said U Zaw Htay.
On Jan. 8, the US Embassy released a statement condemning the ARSA attack on Myanmar security forces in Rakhine State.
“This act of violence only serves to further undermine peace and security in northern Rakhine State and the region,” read the statement.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.