In his monthly address to the nation on 1 October, Burmese President Thein Sein highlighted the issue of global terror in his speech.
Though the president emphasised that the threat to Burma remained low, he urged all relevant institutions – the government, parliament, judiciary, security forces, police, political parties and civil society groups – to work together to protect the country from terrorism.
Thein Sein’s warning came following a statement by Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri broadcast on 3 September which called on Al-Qaeda to expand its jihad to India, Bangladesh and Burma.
The threat was widely criticised by Burma’s Islamic community, with the Burmese Muslim Association responding to the statement by referring to al-Qaeda as “morally repugnant”.
Nonetheless, security was beefed up in Rangoon throughout September around many of the city’s religious sites.
Thein Sein’s radio address was the starkest warning so far by the country’s president regarding the potential threat of terrorism to Burma.
The president also reiterated previous statements that inter-religious conflict in the country has been propagated in recent years by “opportunists taking advantage of the removal of restrictions on free speech”.
The communal violence which ignited in 2012 in Arakan State between Arakanese Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslim community left more than 300 dead and some 140,000 displaced from their homes.
Burma’s mostly Buddhist security forces have been accused of doing little to quell the violence, and in some cases have allegedly participated in attacks against Muslims.
On Wednesday morning, President Thein Sein also addressed the issue of Burma’s ongoing ceasefire talks, saying that “the successful implementation of the 2015 general elections and the country’s accompanying political transformation is closely linked to the success of the peace process and future political dialogue.”
Finally, Thein Sein urged all concerned stakeholders to avoid personal, party or organisational interests, and pushed for the early conclusion of a nationwide ceasefire agreement.