The Irrawaddy

Security Advisor: NLD Govt Capable of Managing Rakhine Crisis

Myanmar's National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun at the press conference about Rakhine State on Wednesday. (Photo: Htet Naing Zaw / The Irrawddy)

NAYPYITAW — Myanmar’s National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun said on Wednesday that the civilian government is capable of managing the situation in northern Rakhine State despite calls for a state of emergency and martial law to be implemented.

The area has been struck by conflict most recently since Aug. 25, when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army launched attacks on 30 police outposts. The Myanmar government denounced the group as a terrorist organization and the army proceeded to launch clearance operations in northern Rakhine State, forcing self-identifying Rohingya Muslims, Buddhist Arakanese and Hindus to flee.

As of Tuesday, the UN confirmed that nearly 125,000 Muslim refugees have arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar, while the government said that around 27,000 Arakanese, Arakanese sub-ethnicities, and Hindus have been internally displaced.

During a press conference on Rakhine State at the State Counselor’s Office in Naypyitaw, U Thaung Tun said the National League for Democracy (NLD) government is keeping a constant eye on the issue.

“We have discussions about how to respond to the situations in Rakhine. We have enough resources to handle the situation,” he told The Irrawaddy when asked if military administration would be put into place in the region.

The army said during a press conference on Aug. 29 that their request to the government for martial law in Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Rathedaung Townships in northern Rakhine State did not materialize.

On Wednesday, U Thaung Tun said the government had deployed more troops to the conflict zone, including members of the police and army. Prior to the Aug. 25 attacks, the President had already held meetings with the security advisor, Ministry of Defense, Home Affairs and Border Affairs on Rakhine State issues.

“The decision on whether to have martial law or not was made in the meeting. We are prioritizing the security and well-being of displaced people now,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Regarding the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations for the region, the security advisor said that actions that are required to be carried out urgently will be implemented, dependent on the situation on the ground.

“As the commission recommends, we are now dispatching the media to Maungdaw as well as humanitarian aid to the people out there,” U Thaung Tun said.

He also added that the conflict in Rakhine would be a pressing issue at the upcoming convening of the UN General Assembly this month, and that China and Russia would stand up for Myanmar at the Security Council, as U Thaung Tun himself had lobbied for their support.

“Our police outposts were attacked. We are not the ones who launched the offensive. Internationally, it is right to respond to this attack, but we do so carefully and systematically. We don’t use excessive force,” he said.

The President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay said during a press conference that 371 suspected militants had been killed by security forces and 38 arrested, adding that nationwide security alerts have been raised based on intelligence information.