Myanmar Deploys Army Battalion to Beef up Security in Turbulent Rakhine State

Myanmar’s defense minister and national security adviser said on Thursday that government troops have been deployed in western Myanmar’s violence-ridden Rakhine state to provide additional security for ethnic Rakhine people following a spate of deadly attacks.

The region’s Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships have been in a state of upheaval since security forces unleashed a crackdown following deadly attacks on three border guard stations on Oct. 9, which were blamed on a group of Rohingya Muslim militants.

Though the crackdown ended in February, security forces continue to patrol the tri-township area where disappearances, murders, attacks on patrolmen, and periodic killings by troops continue to occur.

In recent weeks, villagers and patrolmen have discovered camps thought to be used by Muslim “terrorists” along the Mayu mountain range in the Maungdaw-Buthidaung area.

The murders of farmers from the Myo minority, a sub-ethnic group of the state’s ethnic Rakhine people, who were reportedly killed by Muslim militants in Maungdaw’s Kinegyi village in late July, prompted many ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Myo to flee their homes.

Soldiers from the 33rd Light Infantry Division were dispatched by air to Rakhine’s capital Sittwe on Thursday, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.

“We deployed more troops in Rakhine,” Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sein Win said, though he did not specify the number of soldiers assigned to the area.

“We are doing this so that ethnic people can live in peace and security,” he told reporters at the Forum on Myanmar’s Democratic Transition at the international convention center in Naypyidaw.

Dangerous region

National Security Adviser Thaung Tun said the government army must increase its presence in the volatile northern part of Rakhine state because the region is becoming more dangerous.

“It is stepping up to its responsibility to investigate militant camps in the Mayu mountain range and to protect civilians in Maungdaw township,” he said.

On Wednesday, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s military commander-in-chief, met with Rakhine lawmakers from the state’s dominant Arakan National Party in Naypyidaw to discuss the security crisis, heightened by the murders of the farmers.

Local groups are planning to hold demonstrations across Rakhine state on Sunday, calling for the government to crack down on Rohingya militants, the online news service Democratic Voice of Burma reported on Thursday.

Myanmar considers the Rohingya illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and has denied them citizenship and access to basic services, even though many have lived in the country for generations

About 120,000 other Rohingya live in internally displaced persons camps in Rakhine where they were placed following deadly communal violence with Rakhine Buddhists in 2012.

An estimated 90,000 Rohingya fled the area during the crackdown, some of whom have accused security forces of committing atrocities against them.

Reported by Win Ko Ko Latt and Waiyan Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.