The Burmese government has underlined the security measures in place to protect the country from the threat of terrorism.
Last year, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban called on Rohingya Muslims to “take up the sword and kill in the path of God”. Previous mentions of Burma have been made by international terrorist organisations, including a 2014 declaration by Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri that the terror network has expanded its jihad to India, Bangladesh and Burma.
The video releases stirred existing fears of Islamist terrorism in Burma.
Terror attacks have occurred in the country in recent years. A spate of bomb attacks in 2013 included a blast at the Trader’s Hotel in Rangoon. However, no attacks in Burma have been linked to radical Islamists or the country’s Muslim population.
Speaking to a joint-sitting of Burma’s bicameral parliament on Wednesday, Deputy Minister for Home Affairs Kyaw Zan Myint said that the Burmese government was carrying out preventative measures in the fight against terrorism. Those measures, according to the deputy minister, include measures to ensure there are no shelter or training camps in Burma for international terrorists.
There has been no indication that international terror networks exist in Burma. However, Burma’s police force remains on high-alert to the possible presence of terror networks including the Islamic State, which is believed to be active elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
“We have designated high priority areas in Naypyidaw, Rangoon and Mandalay where highly trained and well equipped anti-terrorist teams are deployed,” Kyaw Zan Myint told parliament. “Measures are in place to provide security for important structures, religious buildings, and infrastructure such as factories and bridges as well,” the deputy minister said.
In 2014, Burma adopted its first counterterrorism law, which criminalises terrorism financing. The law was drawn up to prevent money laundering, considered a funding source for terrorist activities. Burma has also signed a series of memorandums with neighbouring countries to cooperate with the monitoring of terrorism, including security measures at airports and border check points.
“To ensure timely updates on international terrorist activities, we are communicating and exchanging information with international organisations such as Interpol and Aseanpol and their partner organisations. We are also monitoring news from internet websites, media agencies and other open source media to carry out preventative measures.”
Burma’s Counter-Terrorism Bill carries a minimum 10 years sentence and a maximum of life imprisonment or death penalty for those convicted of terror-related acts.
A group of 20 Muslims, including a groom and bride-to-be arrested on their wedding day, were last year sentenced to lengthy prison terms on terrorism charges by a district court in Taunggyi, Shan State.
However, according to one of the lawyers representing the defendants, no evidence was submitted in court that linked any of the accused to the charges of involvement with explosives or affiliation with an armed group.