Two Arrested After Attacks on Border Guard Posts in Arakan State

By Moe Myint 10 October 2016

RANGOON — Two men have been apprehended after an attack on three Burmese border guard posts in Arakan State’s Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships, close to the Bangladesh border, in the early hours of Sunday morning.

According to U Tin Maung Swe, secretary of the Arakan State government, the two have reportedly confessed to having planned the attack on the border guard posts over three months, with the help of local Muslims in Maungdaw, where the majority self-identify as Rohingya (but are labeled “Bengali” by the government).

The attacks on the Kyikanpyin headquarters and the Kotankauk and Ngakhuya outposts were launched by around 250 men, between 1:30 am and 4:30 am on Sunday morning, according to the state government. Nine policemen were killed, reportedly with machetes, and 64 firearms were looted.

On pursuing the attackers, police killed eight and apprehended two, who were taken to the state capital Sittwe for questioning. The other 240 remain “on the run,” according to U Tin Maung Swe.

The state government secretary said that 30 of the attackers were equipped with firearms and—according to the confession drawn from those arrested—they had travelled by boat via a coastal route.

The Irrawaddy contacted state government spokesman U Min Aung over the phone, who read from a police report alleging that “local Muslims” involved in the attack had links to the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), a small militant group active along the Bangladeshi border in the 1980s and 1990s, which has been seemingly defunct ever since.

However, state government secretary U Tin Maung Swe would not comment on the identity and affiliations of the attackers, and nothing has yet come to light to substantiate any links with the RSO.

Since the incident, reinforcements of soldiers have been deployed on the ground in Maungdaw District of northern Arakan State—already a heavily militarized area. The municipal market in Maungdaw town has been shuttered, with new checkpoints erected across urban areas. Some from surrounding villages have come to shelter in the town.

An existing curfew from 11pm – 4am has been extended to 7pm – 6am in Maungdaw District—which comprises Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships—as well as in Rathedaung Township further south. Gatherings of more than five people have also been outlawed.

All of Maungdaw District’s approximately 400 government schools were ordered shut on Monday morning.

Government staff and teachers, most of whom come from outside the area, have expressed fear over the Sunday attacks and are awaiting permission to return to their home towns and villages.

U Thein Htun Win, head-teacher of Kin Taung village primary school in Maungdaw Township, told The Irrawaddy that teachers are worrying for their safety because police numbers were insufficient for their protection in rural areas of the township, where the large majority of residents are Muslim.

However, the Arakan State government secretary U Tin Maung Swe insisted that the situation across Maungdaw District remained stable.

He said that authorities had shut border gates with Bangladesh, and the navy had been deployed to block coastal approaches to Burma. However, he said that arresting the remaining attackers would be difficult, because of their purported ability to blend in with local villagers in the area.

He added that the case was “very sensitive” and “complicated,” because it implicated “two countries”: Burma and Bangladesh. This suggests a belief that the attackers originated from Bangladesh, although evidence to this effect has yet to be revealed publicly. U Tin Maung Swe said they “can’t rush” the matter.