Two Dead in Rakhine Border Post Attack

By Moe Myint 8 July 2019

YANGON—At least two security personnel in northern Rakhine State’s strife-torn Maungdaw Township were shot dead when an unknown armed group ambushed a security border outpost on Sunday.

An official from northern Maungdaw Township’s Kha Maung Seik sub-town General Administrative Department told The Irrawaddy over the phone on Monday that the ambush took place near a border fence between Border Post No. 40 and 41 on Sunday.

He said the assailants used a border fence near a hill in Bangladeshi territory as cover, but that his office had not yet received a detailed report as of Monday morning. It remains unclear who is behind the attack.

Colonel Win Zaw Oo, head of Myanmar’s Western Regional Military Command, said the Maungdaw border post was fired on by a rifle grenade but declined to comment on the number of causalities beyond referring questions to a weekend briefing from Radio Free Asia (RFA) previously cited by the Tatmadaw True News Information Team’s Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun; that report said two officers were killed in the ambush.

“I don’t know the details, just take the number you saw in the report as correct,” Col. Win Zaw Oo said.

Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told RFA the territory where the ambush occurred is under the control of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), who he speculated were responsible for the attack. The Irrawaddy called Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun multiple times but was unable to reach him as of Monday afternoon.

In 2017, after ARSA attacks on border outposts in the region, the Myanmar military launched clearance operations that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee in what the UN has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” They have been sheltering now in poor conditions at refugee camps in Bangladesh for over 21 months, where monsoon rains killed at least two over the weekend. International rights groups have called for military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court for purported crimes against humanity.

As of Monday, ARSA’s Twitter account had not shared any information regarding the attack.

In the group’s latest video message, on June 6, ARSA leader Attah Ullah said, “I hope that all the Rohingya people will use their possible resources and means to gain our legitimate rights back in Arakan.”

If carried out by ARSA, the Sunday attack will have been their fourth attack this year. The first, in January, wounded a police colonel and five officers near Wet Kyein Village in northern Maungdaw Township. Within a week, another attack injured three police officers near Wai Lar Taung Village.

In April, a police truck carrying security personnel in the north of Maungdaw Township was attacked using an improvised explosive device (IED), injuring a lance corporal. Days later, footage of the attack circulated on Facebook showed eight rifle gunners in face masks and ARSA outfits firing on the truck at close range as the roadside IED detonated.

Repatriation plans between Myanmar and Bangladesh have consistently been delayed, with each side blaming the other for the slowdowns. The UN refugee agency and UN Development Program have extended a one-year Memorandum of Understanding with Myanmar, originally singed in Naypyidaw in June 2018, with the intention of developing conducive conditions for the safe and voluntary return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar.

During a visit to China in June, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged to the Chinese leaders to help with the Rohingya repatriation project but blamed Myanmar authorities for delays.

“Myanmar in no way wants them [Rohingya] back. This is the problem. We are trying to do our part,” she said.

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