Rakhine State Parliament Votes to Investigate Civilian Deaths in AA-Myanmar Army Clashes

By Min Aung Khine 24 September 2019

SITTWE, Rakhine State—The Rakhine State parliament voted on Tuesday to approve a proposal to investigate recent civilian deaths during clashes between the Myanmar army and the Arakan Army (AA) in northern Rakhine State.

Rakhine State lawmaker U Tun Tha Sein submitted a proposal urging the state government to form an investigation committee of lawmakers, officials and civil society organizations to examine civilian deaths in the clashes.

All state lawmakers except for those appointed by the military voted to approve the proposal.

The number of civilians killed or injured in clashes has increased, according to the lawmaker, with 80 deaths and around 120 injuries between January and Aug. 29. None of them were killed or injured in combat but were instead hit by artillery shells in their houses and villages, he said. These statistics are much higher than those reported by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military.

During the debate over the proposal on Monday, one military-appointed lawmaker argued against the proposal and four ethnic Rakhine lawmakers argued for it.

“The Rakhine State government has a responsibility to find out who is responsible for civilian deaths. As the Rakhine State government is elected by the people, it is fully responsible for this,” Buthidaung Township lawmaker U Tun Aung Thein argued.

Military-appointed lawmaker Lieutenant-Colonel Min Thu argued that the proposed investigation commission would be unable to find the truth behind what happened because the AA has instilled fear in local residents. He also accused AA troops of disguising themselves as local civilians and launching attacks on the Myanmar army from inside villages.

“This proposal could mislead the people about the Tatmadaw [the Myanmar military]. It also would disrupt the mental condition of soldiers as well as their ability to perform their duties,” he told the parliament. “The Tatmadaw would take responsibility and be accountable for the results of the investigation but it can’t be assumed that the AA would take responsibility. In villages where clashes are taking place, the AA controls the local people with fear. This makes it difficult to find out the truth, so I object to the proposal.”

Minbya Township lawmaker U Hla Thein Aung disagreed, citing the statistics shared by U Tun Tha Sein as cause for concern.

“As the two sides are blaming each other for the deaths, the Rakhine State government should form an investigation commission,” he said.

Rakhine State Security and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Min Than echoed the argument of the military-appointed lawmaker and asked the parliament not to approve the proposal but to record its submission on the record.

In addition to civilians killed by shelling, there have been several cases in which administrative staff of local governments have been assassinated in recent months.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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