The Myanmar government is arranging more security for State Counselor and Foreign Affairs Minister Aung San Suu Kyi after her name appeared on a hit list sent by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group to police in Malaysia, a government spokesman said Wednesday.
Her name was listed along with those of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the attorney general, inspector general of police, and three ministers. The list was sent on Monday to a police station in the town of Nilai in the Seremban district of Sembilan state on the western coast of peninsular Malaysia, according to Malaysian media reports.
“After hearing the threat information, we have to be very careful and work on checking, investigating, and preparing [additional] security,” said Zaw Htay, spokesman of the President’s Office.
“We don’t need to worry too much, but we also can’t underestimate it,” he said.
Malaysian police are trying to identify the sender, while forensics experts are examining the letter, which also claimed that there could be more than 700 ISIS members in Negeri Sembilan. Police received a similar letter two months ago, but did not provide any details, the reports said.
About 61 percent of Malaysia’s population of more than 30 million people are Muslim.
The Myanmar government provides its state VIPs with four types of security in the form of bodyguards, close protection, executive protection, and escorts, Zaw Htay said.
The country’s security officials have already studied the operational methods of ISIS terrorists, and they remain concerned about the possible penetration of ISIS terrorist attacks in Myanmar, he said.
“Although they [ISIS militants] are based in Iraq and Syria, they usually carry out attacks with home- grown networks of terrorist cells,” he said. “We have to check for home-grown terrorist cells very carefully.”
Even though it is difficult for terrorist organizations to take root in Myanmar, security officials are not underestimating ISIS, he said.
“It is especially important for young people not to be persuaded to serve in terrorist organizations,” he said. “Religious leaders, people, and government are responsible for seeing to it.”
Earlier death threat
Aung San Suu Kyi’s security detail was beefed up in February after a man posted a death threat on Facebook, alluding to her presidential ambitions after her National League of Democracy (NLD) party won national elections in November 2015.
The man named Ye Lwin Myint threatened to shoot anyone who attempted to change a clause in the constitution that bars Aung San Suu Kyi from the nation’s top office because her two sons are foreign nationals, as was her late husband, Agence France-Presse reported.
She is nevertheless viewed as Myanmar’s de facto leader under the administration of her close friend and aide President Htin Kyaw.
ISIS, which controls areas of war-town Iraq and Syria, routinely makes threats against national leaders of other countries who are “non-believers” of Islam or who govern areas where Muslims are said to be suppressed.
Myanmar’s Muslim minority group is often on the receiving end of hate speech and other forms of persecution in the predominantly Buddhist country.
About 120,000 Rohingya Muslims currently live in displaced persons camps in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state following communal violence between them and Buddhists in 2012. Thousands of others have fled persecution on rickety boats headed to other Southeast Asian countries in recent years.
The government does not consider the Rohingya to be full citizens of Myanmar and denies them basic rights, freedom of movement, and access to social services and education.
Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.