The Irrawaddy

Western Border on High Alert as ARSA Attack Anniversary Nears

SITTWE — More than 160 police outposts have been set up along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border to maintain security nearly one year after a series of attacks on Myanmar’s western border.

Aug. 25 will mark the first anniversary of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)’s attacks on 30 police outposts in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships in Rakhine State.

More than a dozen security personnel and civil servants were killed in the attacks, according to state media, with the number of casualties, including civilians, rising to nearly 80 over the following month. The government denounced ARSA as a terrorist group.

Security has been beefed up along the border in response to reports that ARSA members are planning to sneak back across the border by impersonating refugees in order to launch more attacks, Colonel Aung Myat Moe of the Rakhine State Police told The Irrawaddy.

“We have set up over 160 police outposts along the Maungdaw border, and deployed nearly 1,000 policemen,” he said.

Thousands of ethnic people including Arakanese, Mro, Thet and Daingnet fled the area following the attacks. The Myanmar military’s subsequent counterinsurgency operations caused nearly 700,000 Rohingyas to flee into Bangladesh, according to the UN, though the Myanmar government denies those figures.

Stability has been restored in the area, but all communities in Maungdaw remain in a state of fear, and continue to be haunted by the attacks a year ago, as well as earlier attacks launched in October 2016.

“The reports [of possible renewed attacks] have left us constantly jumpy,” Ni Mal, the supervisor of a Hindu refugee camp in Maungdaw, told The Irrawaddy.

According to Military Intelligence, ARSA terrorists have recruited personnel and stockpiled weapons, ammunition and food, and are providing training near the border, Police Col. Aung Myat Moe said.

“There are refugee camps in another country. And terrorists are staying there disguised as refugees. We have learned that a lot of improvised firearms and drugs have been seized there, and many people connected with terror organizations were arrested there,” he said, referring to Bangladesh.

Police are patrolling around the clock in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, and keeping an eye on those with criminal records.

In July, over 30 improvised firearms were seized at Rohingya refugee camps in Rakhine State’s capital, Sittwe, and other townships, Rakhine police said. The Asia Times reported that Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion raided a clandestine gun factory near the southeastern town of Cox’s Bazar on July 21.

Security will remain in a heightened state in Sittwe and other townships in Rakhine till the end of August, state police said.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.