With Nasaka Border Force Abolished, National Police Move In to Arakan

By Htet Naing Zaw 16 July 2013

RANGOON — A national police battalion has been deployed to Arakan State after the government’s notorious Nasaka border guard force was abolished four days ago, a state government spokesman says.

“Police have been stationed in areas where security is a concern to replace the Nasaka,” Myo Than, a secretary for the Arakan State government’s information team, told The Irrawaddy on Monday. He said the border guard force had been stationed in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, which are largely populated by the Rohingya Muslim minority.

“The police there have nothing to do with the Arakan State Police but are under a Union-level directorate,” he added.

The Nasaka, known officially as the Border Area Immigration Control Headquarters, comprises army and police officers as well as customs and immigration officials. In addition to monitoring Burma’s western border with Bangladesh, it administered certain areas of north Arakan State and has been accused of rights violations against the Rohingya population there for decades. It also oversaw a controversial practice of registering Rohingya households.

Burma’s President Thein Sein abolished the border guard force on Friday, according to a statement by the President’s Office, but he did not publicly provide a reason for doing so.

The decision came ahead of a trip this week to Europe, where the Burmese president is expected to discuss rights abuses in his country during meetings with leaders in Britain and France.

Win Myaning, a spokesperson for the Arakan State government, declined to comment on the dissolution of the Nasaka and said he only learned about the president’s decision from the President’s Office statement.

Zaw Aye Maung, the minister for Arakanese ethnic affairs, said the Nasaka was abolished because the Rakhine Investigation Commission, a team tasked with investigating communal violence in the west Burma state last year, alleged in its report that the border guard force had been ineffective in performing its duties.

“The report said the Nasaka didn’t have teamwork,” said the minister. “I learned that the president abolished the border guard force to assign a superintendent with a separate mission.”

The demise of the Nasaka will likely not affect the local Arakanese people, said a resident in Sittwe, the state capital.

“The government will surely replace it with another security force,” Than Tun told The Irrawaddy, adding that security concerns for the Arakanese would arise if a replacement was not established.

Shwe Maung, a member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said he welcomed the dissolution of the Nasaka, which he accused of widespread rights abuses in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships.

“It is my understanding that the Nasaka was abolished because its existence, activities and formation were illegal according to the Constitution,” said the lawmaker, who represents Maungdaw.

He said the Constitution only allowed administrative department officials to administer a constituency.

“We MPs from Maungdaw and Buthidaung have been complaining about the Nasaka’s behavior for a long time,” he said. “We are very happy, and I would like to thank President U Thein Sein for this great reform.”

Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze.