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The Arakan State government says it will form a militia to bolster defenses along Burma’s border with Bangladesh in the wake of a series of deadly attacks earlier this month, according to Maungdaw Township’s new border police commander.
Police Brig-Gen Thura San Lwin, who was appointed to the position two week ago after his predecessor was sacked for failing to prevent the 9 October attacks that left nine border police dead, said the new “volunteer police force” would operate under the supervision of the border police.
Police are “working to train local young people to safeguard their own areas and villages and State Chief Minister [Nyi Pyu] also gave advice,” he said, adding that new recruits would be aged between 18 and 35 and have at least a primary-school education.
Training will take place in the state capital Sittwe and at the police headquarters in Maungdaw’s Kyikanpyin village tract, where attacks took place, said Thura San Lwin. Police from Maungdaw who are currently stationed elsewhere can also be transferred to the region if they wish to, he added.
The move follows demands from ethnic Arakanese Buddhists who say they need to be armed to protect themselves against future attacks by Rohingya Muslim militants.
Some local young people expressed an interest in joining the new force, but they said the most important thing was that the police should listen to their concerns.
“The police chief said that he wanted to cooperate with local people, which means listening to them,” said Maungdaw resident Win Than. “By listening to local people, and using the information they provide, police can better uphold the rule of law and maintain national sovereignty.”
Meanwhile, claims by Rohingya villagers living in the region that they have been subjected to widespread human rights abuses by security personnel looking for the attackers have been dismissed as “propaganda for Muslim groups” by Colonel Sein Lwin, the police chief for Arakan State.
Police said that as of 25 October, they had arrested 50 people and recaptured 18 guns and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition that had been seized during the 9 October attacks.