Rakhine State Lawmaker Suggests Union Govt Talk to AA to End Fighting

By Moe Myint 15 February 2019

YANGON — The Rakhine State legislature on Thursday agreed to schedule a debate on a proposal to call on the Union Parliament  to urge the national government to find a way to end the ongoing fighting between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA) in the north of the state.

Rakhine State lawmaker U Than Naing, of Rathedaung Constituency (1), submitted the urgent proposal Thursday, noting that the fighting has forced more than 6,000 people to flee their homes over the past two months.

“I would like to encourage the Union government via the state government to halt the armed conflict in Rakhine as soon as possible to show empathy for the lives of ethnic [minority] people who live in contested areas,” he said.

He also cited a controversial press conferences in Naypyitaw during which a military spokesman said that State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had in private directed the armed forces to crush the AA soon after the ethnic armed group staged a deadly attack on a police post in Rakhine’s Maungdaw Township.

“Because she gave instructions for the fighting, I believe she can also order a truce,” said U Than Naing, a member of the Arakan National Party (ANP), which dominates the state legislature.

He suggested the Union government hold negotiations with the AA to bring the fighting to an end and forge a lasting peace.

Spokesmen for the Office of the President and the Office of the Commander-in-Chief could not be reached for comment.

Rakhine State ANP lawmaker U Tun Thar Sein, of Mrauk-U Constituency (1), said the state ministers had already endorsed the proposal and that the local legislature’s military-appointed lawmakers were also on board. But he said most of the ministers were not on hand for Thursday or Friday’s parliamentary sessions to answer questions, including chief minister U Nyi Pu.

The chief minister was appointed to the post by the ruling National League for Democracy, with whom the ANP has a contentious relationship.

On Friday, U Tun Thar Sein also submitted an urgent proposal for humanitarian assistance for the thousands of people displaced by the fighting, now relying mostly on donations from non-government aid groups. The state government has distributed aid to the displaced only once and blocked most international aid agencies from making aid deliveries of their own.

U Tun Thar Sein said the state government had a disaster management budget, approved by Parliament last year, that stood at about 30 billion kyats ($19.62 million) and could potentially be used to help the displaced families.

But the local lawmakers expressed doubts about the likelihood of negotiations, as the Union government labeled the AA a terrorist organization for killing 13 security force members in recent attacks and seized more than a dozen assault rifles and over 10,000 rounds of ammunition.

U Tun Thar Sein said the state’s ethnic Arakanese lawmakers had previously urged the Union government to take action on a number of other issues in Rakhine but to no avail.

“I would like to say that they should pay a little attention on the Rakhine Parliament,” he said.