A proposal calling for a debate about measures to tackle “terrorist groups” in northwestern Arakan State has been passed by Burma’s Upper House of Parliament.
Arakanese MP Khin Maung Latt tabled the motion yesterday; it was passed by Upper House lawmakers without objection. House speaker Mahn Win Khine Than subsequently declared that those MPs who wish to participate in a debate about the security situation in Arakan State should sign up.
The move comes after months of tensions and violent incidents, including the murder last week of at least six ethnic Mro villagers in a highland village in Maungdaw Township.
Addressing parliament on Wednesday, Khin Maung Latt said that people in the region are “physically and mentally deteriorating due to continuous occurrences of murders in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung.”
Rohingya Muslims form a majority in each of the three townships, which are close to the Bangladesh border.
“The fears of these people are not groundless; these acts of terrorism are gaining momentum,” he said.
Khin Maung Latt went on to cite unnamed international academics saying that the situation in northwestern Arakan State could become similar to that of Marawi in the Philippines where Islamist militants have overrun towns and villages. He also referred to a January 2016 statement by Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri who forecast that Southeast Asia would become a new base for his group’s operations.
MP Htu May backed Khin Maung Latt’s proposal and said there was an “urgent need to increase security operations” in the affected areas. He also called for immediate action to be taken against the insurgents who committed the recent murders against Mro villagers in Khaing Gyi.
The State Counsellor’s Office Information Committee has stated that more than 40 civilians have been killed and more than 20 listed as missing in Maungdaw between October 2016 and 30 June 2017.
A meeting among cabinet members to address security measures in Arakan was convened by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday in Naypyidaw. Several prominent military representatives attended, including Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe, Lt-Gen Sein Win, Lt-Gen Ye Aung and National Security Adviser Thaung Tun.
Also yesterday, Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing sat with leading figures from the Arakan National Party in the Burmese capital to address similar concerns.
Local groups are planning a series of demonstrations across Arakan State on 13 August, calling for the government to crack down on Rohingya militants.
Meanwhile, a curfew initiated in October 2016 in Maungdaw and Buthidaung has been extended for another two months as from 9 August.
Speaking to DVB today, Pol-Lt Kyaw Mya Win of Maungdaw police force confirmed that civilians are prohibited from going outside between 9pm–5am in Maungdaw and 10am–5am in Buthidaung. Gatherings of five or more persons in public spaces are also banned and travel restrictions continue to apply.