Burma has sent a list of hundreds of names of suspected terrorists to the Bangladeshi government, and is seeking to have those individuals detained for their alleged involvement in deadly attacks last month by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in Arakan State, according to a senior Burmese government official.
Zaw Htay, a presidential spokesperson, told DVB on Wednesday that the Burmese government had sent a list of more than 600 names to Bangladeshi authorities, though he declined to provide details on how that roster was compiled.
“We have already informed Bangladesh, [instructing authorities there] to arrest them and then hand them over to the Myanmar government,” he said.
His remarks come as the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) is on a visit to northern Arakan State, where its members are meeting with Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu communities. Interfaith tensions are running high in the wake of a 25 August assault by ARSA on police and military posts and a subsequent, heavy-handed military counter-insurgency campaign in response.
“We will be here until Friday and we will make a report after we have assessed the human rights situation here,” said Yu Lwin Aung, a member of the MNHRC.
He said the MNHRC report would be sent to President Htin Kyaw, including details of the situation on the ground and related human rights issues.
Nearly half a million Rohingya Muslims are estimated to have fled across the border to Bangladesh in the wake of the 25 August attacks and the security crackdown that has followed.
Besieged by international criticism over the crisis in Arakan State, the National League for Democracy (NLD) nonetheless took time on Wednesday to celebrate the party’s 29th anniversary — and to defend its handling of the fraught security situation in Burma’s west.
Han Tha Myint, a member of the ruling NLD’s Central Executive Committee, told party members at a ceremony in Rangoon that allegations of grave human rights violations in Arakan State, reportedly perpetrated by security forces against the Rohingya minority, were false.
The party official said “national dignity” and sovereignty were at stake in the aftermath of the 25 August attacks by ARSA, and that the NLD valued international human right standards despite the “challenges” posed by recent developments.
The NLD-led civilian government and the military — over which the former has little control — has been accused of human rights violations by the international community, including at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month. Burma rejects those accusations, and Han Tha Myint on Wednesday said state security forces were justified in their conduct in Arakan State.
“[We] must accept that the counter-offensive to terrorism is a national duty, and continue to fight the terrorists without negotiation,” he said.
The NLD also released a statement on Wednesday saying its administration refutes the allegations from the international community and media reports, and asserting that the government would not allow the crisis in Arakan State to distract it from the country’s democratic reform process.
“It is neither a religious nor racial conflict, just violence,” Aung Shin, secretary of the NLD’s Central Information Committee, told DVB. “Our neighbouring countries and also the world don’t accept violence. But they have been negligent on the real situation. Now, the issue will be discussed at a UN Security Council meeting. We aren’t afraid of that.”
He said allegations of what the UN human rights chief has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” lacked “solid evidence” to date.
According to the government, the civilian death toll in Arakan State reached 163, with 91 people still missing, over a period covering 9 October until Tuesday. It has previously said more than 300 ARSA members were killed in the counter-offensive that security forces have launched in response to the insurgents’ latest large-scale offensive on 25 August.