Denmark’s ambassador to Myanmar visited turbulent Rakhine state on Wednesday to talk to people affected by recent violence there to learn their views about the current situation, as the Nordic country prepares to increase its development aid to the area.
Danish ambassador Peter Lysholt Hansen met with people in the state capital Sittwe and visited Angumaw village in Rathedaung township and Inndin village in Maungdaw township in the northern part of the state.
Coordinated attacks on three border guard posts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships on Oct. 9 left nine officers dead and led to clashes between security forces and armed groups of men in the following days. All in all, about 40 people, including soldiers, border guards, and attackers, have been killed.
Some have blamed the violence on a militant group of Rohingya Muslims, a largely repressed ethnic minority group in Myanmar that suffers routine discrimination and lives in the northern part of Rakhine where the attacks occurred.
“[Hansen] said everybody condemns this terrorism attack in Maungdaw and feels sorry for the border guard police who were killed in the attacks,” said Than Tun said, leader of the civil society organization community in Rakhine state.
Locals told Hansen that the Islamist terrorist organization Aqa Mul Mujahidin was responsible for attacks that occurred near the Bangladesh border, he said.
They also told him that another terrorist organization in Pakistan provided support to the Aqa Mul Mujahidin group, and that the international Muslim community assisted the Pakistani group, he said
“Peter Lysholt Hansen asked us what we thought about the master key organization behind the Maungdaw attack, why it carried out the attack, and how we can resolve the problems in Rakhine state,” Than Tun told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
‘A good discussion’
Hansen told them that international community, including Denmark and United Nations organizations, plans to reduce humanitarian aid to both ethnic Rakhine and Muslim communities in Rakhine state, but will provide more development aid, Than Tun said.
“If only Myanmar citizens can get their development aid, then we will welcome it,” he said.
A post on the Danish embassy’s Facebook page said Hansen and those he talked to had a “good discussion and agreed that ongoing dialogue with and among all parties is an important element in the harmonious development of Rakhine state.”
On Tuesday, Hansen met Rakhine state chief minister Nyi Pu in Sittwe to talk about the situation in Maungdaw and planned Danish support to help poor people from both ethnic Rakhine and Muslim communities sustainably manage fisheries resources, another Facebook post said.
Hansen will visit Rohingya Muslim refugee camps in Sittwe township and meet Muslim leaders on Thursday.
Attack on villagers
The Danish ambassador’s visit came just as aid from the U.N. was starting to reach areas affected by the violence. His visit also followed attacks on Monday by assailants who set fire to a home and abducted two villagers in Maungtaw, state-run Global News Light of Myanmar reported.
Local authorities later arrested two people inside a camp for displaced people in Maungdaw’s Kotankauk village on suspicion of providing aid to the attackers, the report said.
Also on Monday, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of issued a statement that the World Food Programme was granted permission to deliver aid to four villages—the first time that humanitarian access has been granted to the affected areas of Maungdaw since the attacks occurred.
Last week, U.N. envoy Renata Lok-Dessallien led a two-day mission visit to Maungdaw to survey the situation on the ground and talk to residents and security forces. She called on the Myanmar government to launch an independent investigation of alleged human rights abuses in the northwestern township.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.