Rakhine Delegation Meets with Myanmar Military Chief, Draws Criticism

By Min Aung Khine 17 February 2020

SITTWE, Rakhine State—A meeting between Myanmar’s military chief and an ethnic Rakhine delegation in Naypyitaw last Thursday has drawn criticism and attention from the Rakhine community though both parties said their talks focused on the peace and development of Rakhine State.

Military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing met with a delegation led by Yangon regional ethnic affairs minister U Zaw Aye Maung, who is ethnic Rakhine, that included community elders and business leaders from the Rakhine capital of Sittwe, according to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services.

“Mainly we discussed how to stop clashes in order to achieve peace in Rakhine State. We all raised our concerns,” said U Zaw Aye Maung, who is also a member of the Arakan National Party (ANP), which dominates the Rakhine State Parliament.

The meeting between the military chief and the senior ANP official drew criticisms and questions from members of the Rakhine community as violence continues between the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, and the Arakan Army (AA) in northern Rakhine.

“The meeting led to questions within Rakhine society about their representation,” said U Maung Saw Win, chairman of the Mayu Region Development Association based in Rathedaung Township in northern Rakhine. “Our view is that the meeting would not contribute to peace. It might have been only a casual chat.”

ANP General Secretary U Khaing Pyi Soe said that U Zaw Aye Maung was not representing the party in his meeting with the military chief and that the party has no knowledge about what they discussed.

“We only saw it online. We don’t know how [U Zaw Aye Maung] met [the Tatmadaw chief] or who brought him there. But it is sure that the meeting does not represent the party,” U Khaing Pyi Soe told The Irrawaddy.

U Zaw Aye Maung told The Irrawaddy to refer to the statement from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services regarding the topics of the meeting.

However, he said that the meeting was not planned in advance and was only a courtesy call after the military officials and the Rakhine community elders both attended a religious ceremony organized by an influential ethnic Rakhine monk in Naypyitaw.

“We met military officers at the pagoda consecration ceremony, so we thought it would be good to pay [Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing] a visit while we are there,” U Zaw Aye Maung told The Irrawaddy.

According to the statement from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services, the two sides discussed contributions by military personnel and their families to a religious building and Buddhist monks in Sittwe, and progress towards erecting a bronze statue of an influential missionary monk on land donated by the military.

The two sides also exchanged views on the development of Sittwe as well as the need for regional security for the development of education, health, economy and social standards in Rakhine State.

The Myanmar military and the AA have been fighting for more than a year in northern Rakhine, with the conflict zone expanding over time and casualties rising.

At least 8 people have been killed and 51 injured by artillery shells in villages in Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Kyauktaw townships between Feb. 1 and 13, according to The Irrawaddy’s count.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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