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The Burmese government plans to set up a national counter-terrorism body in the near future to protect the country from extremist groups, according to a senior police official.
Police Brig-Gen Soe Myint, the director of the Transnational Crime Department, said the Ministry of Home Affairs is leading efforts to establish a central agency comprised of representatives from various government ministries to fight terrorism. He said the move is an implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law that was passed by parliament in June.
“In accordance with provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Law, working committees will be formed,” he said. “We propose appointing the minister of home affairs as the body’s chair with Burma’s police chief as secretary.
“As anti-terrorism is a broad subject, the body will include representatives from various concerned government ministries. We are currently working on these details and will make an official announcement once it is confirmed.”
He added the body will consist of around 40 members and will be formed “as soon as possible”, although there is no specific timeframe.
Burma has in recent years experienced several bomb attacks, however no link has been established links between those incidents and overseas terrorist networks.
In September, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced in a video clip posted on the internet that the group was forming a new branch in the Indian subcontinent with operations in Bangladesh and Burma.
On 13 October, documents were found on an Air Kanbawza airplane on the ground at Mandalay International Airport related to terrorist group the Islamic State, or ISIS.
“Based on our analysis on past incidents, there is no link between terrorists in Burma and global terror networks – the attacks that took place inside Burma were carried out by smaller groups which are remnants of larger insurgent organisations using homemade weapons and devices,” said Soe Myint.
“However, according to the Al Qaeda chief, the extremists are now also targeting Burma and stepping up their recruitment drive globally,” he said. “We believe it is necessary to take preventative measures and adopt laws to deal with any acts of terrorism if they take place in Burma.”
The Anti-Terrorism Bill carries a minimum 10 years sentence and a maximum of life imprisonment or death penalty. It was passed by the bicameral union parliament on 4 June. To date, no one has been charged under this law but at least 30 individuals have been detained in recent months for alleged connections to acts of terrorism.