Attacks by armed Muslim fighters against Myanmar border police posts last month were deliberately timed to weaken government efforts to bring peace to the country’s troubled Rakhine state, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement this week.
In its Sept. 11 statement, the ministry noted that the Aug. 25 attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an Islamic insurgent group, were carried out a day after the release of a final report by a commission led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan.
“It is evident that the latest terror campaign is an attempt to undermine the efforts of the Government to find a lasting solution to the issue of Rakhine through the speedy implementation of the Advisory Commission’s recommendations,” the Ministry said.
“The international community can best help by supporting the Myanmar government in its efforts to bring stability, peace and development to Rakhine state,” the Ministry said.
As many as 370,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since the Aug. 25 attacks, according to the U.N.’s latest estimates, which say about 1,000 people were killed in Rakhine violence.
The nine-member Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, appointed by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in August 2016 to examine the causes of unrest in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, has called for reviews of the country’s citizenship law and for an end to restrictions on its Rohingya Muslim minority in order to prevent further violence in the beleaguered region.
“The government of Myanmar fully shares the concern of the international community regarding the displacement and suffering of all communities affected by the latest escalation of violence,” the Ministry said in its statement.
Political opposition speaks out
In a press conference on Tuesday in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon, opposition political parties slammed the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government for what they called its failure to convene a meeting of the country’s National Defense and Security Council to address continuing ethnic clashes in Rakhine.
Myanmar should also refuse to enact recommendations by the Advisory Commission and reject use of the term “genocide” to describe government security operations against Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya minority, thousands of whom have now fled into neighboring Bangladesh, the parties said in a joint statement.
Hla Thein, a central executive committee member of the formerly governing Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), dismissed charges circulating on Myanmar social media that his party and others had encouraged violence in Rakhine state for partisan gain.
“The USDP has not been involved in the unrest and other problems now happening in the country,” he said. “Everyone feels responsible to protect the country according to [Myanmar’s] constitution, but people are acting out of emotion.”
“People shouldn’t say that the USDP always supports people who are behaving like this,” he said.
Use of the term “Muslim community in Rakhine state” to describe the region’s Rohingya group has also led to problems, drawing unnecessary concern from Islamic countries and organizations around the world, Negotiation and Stability Party leader Parsi Pyi Hein told reporters in Yangon.
“Using this term can only cause the situation to get worse, and I want it to be changed,” he said.
Meanwhile, schools are reopening in Rakhine after more than 400 were closed following the Aug. 25 attacks, with eight opening in the state’s Buthedaung township on Tuesday alone, state education officer Aung Kyaw Tun announced today.
All teachers are expected to return to their assigned schools by Sept. 17, he said.
Reported by Kyaw Thu, Thant Zin Oo, and Htet Arkar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.