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Army chief, major Arakanese political party meet as tensions in west simmer

Arakan National Party chairman Aye Maung, standing, and other ANP officials meet Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing and other Tatmadaw leaders in Naypyidaw on Wednesday. (Photo: Office of the Commander-in-Chief)

In a surprise move, Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing and top officials from the Arakan National Party (ANP) met in Naypyidaw on Wednesday, according to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief.

A short statement from the office said the senior-general and the ANP delegation discussed cooperating for the sake of tranquility and development in Arakan State, which remains a volatile region 10 months after the army undertook a major counter-insurgency campaign in response to a deadly attack on police posts by Rohingya Muslim militants.

On the military side, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice Senior-General Soe Win and Lieutenant-General Mya Tun Oo, the chief of general staff, also attended the meeting, said the statement.

Sitting ANP lawmakers including its chairman Aye Maung represented the ethnic Arakanese political party in the capital.

“We planned to submit a proposal at the Lower House and Upper House regarding the security situation of Rakhine [Arakan] State. But it was rejected. So, we decided to approach the Tatmadaw,” Aye Maung told DVB on Wednesday evening.

He added that the ANP had sent a letter to the Office of the Commander-in-chief on Tuesday, with the senior-general elaborating on details of security operations in Arakan State at the following day’s meeting.

“We accepted the security management of the military,” Aye Maung said.

The ANP is arguably the most influential political party in Arakan State, where it holds a plurality of seats in the state legislature and sends lawmakers to Naypyidaw representing several townships in the Union Parliament. Its members have periodically weighed in on the evolving security situation in Arakan State, where the militant attacks of 9 October and ensuing military crackdown have stoked passions and fears on both sides of the state’s Buddhist-Muslim divide.

The ANP, which claims to represent the interests of Arakanese Buddhists, was Burma’s strongest-performing ethnic political party in the 2015 general election, though divisions within its ranks have since come to light and produced a splinter party that was officially formed last month.

This story was updated at 12:25am on Thursday to include comments from the ANP’s Aye Maung.