Police commander ties end of Arakan crackdown to stolen guns’ return

Police commander ties end of Arakan crackdown to stolen guns’ return

The newly installed commander of the Border Police Force in Arakan State’s Maungdaw township has told local Rohingya communities to cooperate with authorities to help recover a cache of firearms stolen by armed assailants during attacks on border police outposts some two months ago.

The coordinated assault on the outposts in northern Arakan State left nine law enforcement personnel dead and 51 firearms of various categories stolen, along with 10,140 rounds of ammunition. Since the attacks took place, Burmese security forces have been conducting “clearance operations” in villages around the town of Maungdaw in an effort to root out the militants, which the government has described as having been influenced by radical Islam.

Police Brigadier General Thura San Lwin was appointed commander of the Maungdaw-based 1st Border Police Force by Minister of Home Affairs Lieutenant-General Kyaw Swe following the dismissal of the previous commander, Maung Maung Khin, in the days following the 9 October attacks.

During a meeting with Rohingya community leaders on Monday, Thura San Lwin pledged to end security operations in their villages if local communities assisted authorities in recovering the stolen firearms.

“Work with us and we will do everything for you,” Thura San Lwin said. “You must refuse to harbour armed attackers in your homes and help us get the stolen weapons back somehow. If you do that, we will call off the operations.”

The commander also vowed to take punitive action against the armed assailants and to protect civilian communities from harm.

A Union-level investigative commission led by Vice President Myint Swe arrived in Sittwe on Sunday to probe the 9 October attacks as well as a subsequent crackdown by security forces in search of the perpetrators. The commission was formed on 1 December amid growing calls for an independent probe into the violence, which has seen scores killed by security forces. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled across the border into Bangladesh, prompting a UN official there to describe the crackdown as “ethnic cleansing” — an allegation the Burmese government has vehemently denied.

Access to the region has been severely curtailed, making independent verification of the claims all but impossible.

The investigation commission is due to submit a report on its findings by 31 January.

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A curfew remains in place from 7pm to 6am in Arakan State’s northern townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw, where the initial attacks took place.

According to the Ministry of Information, as of 9 December, 575 individuals had been detained and questioned by authorities on suspicion of involvement in the attacks.

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