Myanmar Boosts Measures to Take on Rohingya Militants in Rakhine

Rohingya people in Rakhine State, Myanmar

Rohingya people in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Myanmar’s military and government are stepping up efforts to tackle chaos in northern Rakhine state and deter further attacks by militant Rohingya Muslims who sparked another round of deadly violence last week with armed assaults on 30 police outposts.

Militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which the government has declared a terrorist group, attacked the outposts and an army base over the weekend in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships, prompting further clashes that have killed more than 100 people, including insurgents, law enforcement officials, civilians, and a government employee.

The country’s National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), an 11-member body responsible for security and defense affairs in the Southeast Asian nation, will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the turmoil, said Major General Than Htut Thein, deputy chief of the Head Office of the Security for Military Affairs.

Myanmar’s constitution empowers the NDSC to formulate policy on military and security issues, including the right to petition the president to declare a nationwide state of emergency. The military holds six of the seats on the council, which also includes President Htin Kyaw and State Counselor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi.

The continued hostilities between Rohingya militants and soldiers this week in the religiously divided area has been accompanied by the burning of villages, driving some 10,000 ethnic Rakhine people from their homes, and forcing some 7,500 Rohingya to flee to safety in neighboring Bangladesh.

“Both communities have lost trust in each another, and this time we are seeing highest level of concern and the highest level of hatred,” Than Htut Thein said during a press briefing on the attacks on Tuesday in the capital Naypyidaw. “Military troops and security guards are trying to attain stability and security in the region,” he said.

“The Bengali extremists’ goal to get their own territory will be accomplished if our western defense is penetrated,” Than Htut Thein said, using a derogatory word for Rohingya Muslims who are deemed illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in Myanmar. “That’s why we are going to hold an emergency meeting of the National Defense and Security Council to work on it.”

Than Htut Thein went on to say that soldiers had found the militants’ camps in the Mayu mountain range that spans part of Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships in northern Rakhine, and that those who launched the deadly attacks on police outposts on Aug. 25-26 did not manage to capture the stations.

“These terrorists’ goal is to get their own territory,” said major General Aung Ye Win, vice chairman of the Myanmar military’s True News Information Team, at the press conference attended by local and international reporters and military attaches from the United States, China, and Bangladesh.

“They’ve already said it,” he said.

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Reported by Win Ko Ko Latt, Zin Mar Win, Kaung Htet Kyaw, Min Thein Aung, and Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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