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Arakan govt says recent Maungdaw murders are acts of terrorism

Ethnic Mro residents in the remote village of Kaing Gyi are said to be "terrified" of insurgents after the murder of at least six villagers last week. (PHOTO: DVB)

The Arakan state government has said that the recent murder of at least six villagers in Kaing Gyi in Maungdaw Township was an act of terrorism, and announced that it would beef up security across the region.

Six ethnic Mro villagers were found dead last week with machete slashes and bullet wounds to their bodies, while two other women have been listed as missing. Locals in the village of Kaing Gyi told authorities they believe the group had stumbled upon a camp for Rohingya Muslim militants, according to the Burmese State Counsellor’s Office.

Yesterday’s statement by the Arakan government announced that: security operations would be increased across the state; it would oversee and assess the work of international aid organisations in the region; and it would urge the Union government to exercise an effective law enforcing citizenship identification within the state, based on the 1982 Citizenship Act.

The controversial Citizenship Act does not recognise the Rohingya community as an indigenous ethnic group of Burma.

The statement further noted that the locally appointed Arakan State Negotiation Committee will only permit international aid organisations to operate after it has assessed each memorandum of understanding and permit issued by the relevant ministries.

A new outpost manned by security forces was set up on Saturday in Kaing Gyi, which is situated in the Mayu mountain range near the town of Maungdaw in northwestern Arakan State, also known as Rakhine.

The Mro villagers in Kaing Gyi are said to be “terrified” in the wake of last week’s killings and are too afraid to even walk a short distance to collect water from a local well.

“Citizens have previously told the local authorities that they are scared of militants, but the security forces never acted upon the information. That’s why incidents like this happen,” said Khine Pyi Soe, vice chairman of the Arakan National Party (ANP).

Tensions have been high in Arakan since 9 October 2016 when a band of armed militants attacked border guard outposts, leaving nine police officers dead. Rohingya insurgents were widely alleged to have committed the crime. Subsequent operations by the Burmese army in and around Maungdaw have been criticised by rights groups, who say security forces have been arbitrarily detaining, torturing and murdering Rohingya civilians, accusations that both the Burmese military and Aung San Suu Kyi’s government have rejected as false.

A public meeting was called on Monday in state capital Sittwe, where it was proposed that a People’s Militia be formed, and that Buddhist residents be equipped with weapons.

Commemorating the 8-8-88 anniversary yesterday, the 88 Rakhine Generation Social Development Organization issued a list of demands, chief among which was “protection from terrorists.”

Speaking to DVB from the Jit Phat monastery in Sittwe yesterday, Khine San Aung, the general secretary of the 88 Rakhine Generation Social Development Organization, said, “We, the Rakhine people and our ethnic sub-groups, are in a state of alarm. The government has the sole responsibility to protect us and must beef up security operations.

“Villagers are afraid that if they just walk from one town to another they will be attacked, perhaps with homemade weapons or slingshots, or that a mob will beat them up. The government needs to intervene to ensure security here.

“Without issuing a military decree, the Union government needs to tighten security in [the Rohingya-majority townships of] Maungdaw and Buthidaung, and crack down on terrorists,” Khine San Aung added.