Tensions High as Security Forces Deployed in Loikaw

By Lawi Weng 16 May 2019

The Kayah State government has deployed extra security forces in Loikaw around the area of the disputed General Aung San statue amid reports that locals are preparing to take action against the project, according to local sources.

A leaked official order issued on Monday by the state government told local authorities in the wider region to be on high alert and to inform them of any incidents regarding security that happen.

The statement was allegedly written by Kayah State Chief Minister L Phaung Sho, and was signed by the General Secretary of Kayah State U Nyi Nyi Min.

“Tension has high here. They (the authorities) have deployed security forces both day and night at the area of the statue,” Khun Be Du, chairman of the Loikaw-based Kayan National Party, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

He said that security forces have also been deployed across other parts of Loikaw too.

Formal negotiations on the statue between the state government and a group of rights activists who reject it collapsed on Tuesday when the Minister L Phaung Sho said his government would not allow for it to be removed.

“From the side of the local people, they will protest against the statue for sure. But, we do not know yet when or how they will do it,” said Khun Be Du.

The protest committee formed by the activist group was officially dissolved on Tuesday, according to an announcement they released, which said they would not be held responsible for any future actions taken against the statue project.

“After dissolving the committee, we don’t know who will lead future protests,” he said.

Khun Thomas, one of the rights activists who has been acting as spokesperson for the group, said no one has yet officially said they are planning a protest, and that he didn’t know who would lead future anti-statue efforts.

“They are worried that the local people will destroy the statue, that’s why they are tightening security here,” he said.

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