Members of Myanmar’s Rakhine advisory commission met with national government ministers on Wednesday in Naypyidaw to discuss the security situation in Maungdaw township, where recent violence has forced thousands to flee their homes.
The northern part of Rakhine state where Maungdaw is located has been placed under military control following a deadly Oct. 9 attack on three border guard posts and ensuing hostilities that authorities have blamed on insurgents linked to Aqa Mul Mujahidin, an Islamic organization active in Muslim-majority Maungdaw.
Security forces have locked down the area while they hunt for roughly 400 people involved in the attacks, whom they believe to be local Rohingya Muslims who received funding and training from Islamists abroad.
The Myanmar government formed the Rakhine advisory commission in late August to examine conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, and development issues in the impoverished and restive western state.
Though officials from the ministries of defense and home affairs participated in Wednesday’s meeting, former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, who leads the nine-member commission, did not attend.
“The commission members met with us to study the problems and situation in Rakhine state,” said Information Minister Pe Myint. “The Maungdaw attack is new, and they want to know about it as well.”
Rakhine is home to more than 1.1 million stateless Rohingya Muslims whom many Burmese call “Bengalis” because they consider them illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. The Buddhist majority has long subjected the Rohingya to persecution and attacks and denied them basic rights, including citizenship.
The minority group which bore the brunt of anti-Muslim communal violence in 2012 that left more than 200 dead and displaced tens of thousands were later forced to live in camps, where they remain today.
Food for IDPs
Meanwhile, the mayhem in Maungdaw has now driven 3,000 displaced people to nearby towns, according to Rakhine state officials.
More than 1,000 of them have sought refuge in the state capital Sittwe, while others have made their way to other parts of Maungdaw and neighboring Buthidaung township.
Though officials have closed hundreds of state-run schools in Maungdaw as a result of the conflict, they will now arrange for children who have been displaced by the violence to attend classes, said Min Aung, the state’s city development minister.
He also said the state government is supplying food to those who have been displaced.
“The Rakhine state government has provided whatever the IDPs [internally displaced persons] need, such as rice, cooking oil, and dried fish,” he said. “Civil society organizations from Rakhine and other states have been helping them as well.”
Local NGOs must rely on the army to deliver rice to other Maungdaw residents who have remained in their villages and are now running out of food supplies.
Aqa Mul Mujahidin, the group that officials say has ties to insurgents who carried out the border post attacks, has links to the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), a small militant group active in the 1980s and the 1990s, but until recently believed to be defunct.
But at a press conference on Monday, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Maj. Gen. Aung Soe said information indicating that the attacks were carried out by the Islamist group with links to Pakistan may be flawed, according to a report by Democratic Voice of Burma.
Reported by Kyaw Soe Lin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.