Rakhine State’s Hluttaw approved an urgent proposal on July 11 calling for increased security for Rakhine ethnic people as well as ethnic minorities who are citizens by birth.
The proposal, which was submitted by Buthidaung MP U Tun Aung Thein, urges the government to enhance security for Rakhine ethnics and other citizens in the northern part of the state, which is largely inhabited by a Muslim minority population which lacks citizenship. Security officials have been deployed to the northern townships in the wake of a deadly attack on border guard posts last October. A thundering counterinsurgency campaign launched in response saw more than 70,000 Muslim residents – who self-identify as Rohingya but are called Bengalis throughout Myanmar – flee over the border to Bangladesh.
State Hluttaw MPs U Maung Ohn from Maungdaw township and U Than Naing from Rathedaung township supported the urgent proposal.
“We believe the peace and stability of Rakhine State has been affected by the rising population of the illegal Bengali immigrants in Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships and their territorial expansions and attacks,” said U Than Naing.
There are no statistics to substantiate the widespread fear that the Muslim population in the state is ballooning, however.
U Than Naing added that the government’s attempts to secure the northern township are lacking.
“As far as I have observed, the officers from the Border Police Force are from other areas and many of them are unfamiliar with the territories and characteristics of the Rakhine people and the Bengali people. So they are weak in collecting information and some of them have been found to be accepting bribes,” he said.
Rakhine State’s Minister of Municipal Affairs told the state Hluttaw that around 300 police officers, over 2,000 border police officers and the Tatmadaw have been assigned to Maungdaw District to provide security.
Several UN arms have documented severe human rights abuses allegedly committed by security forces in Rakhine State, including gang rapes, extra judicial killings and the burning of villages. The government and the Tatmadaw have denied the bulk of the allegations.
On July 10, U Zaw Htay, director general of the President’s Office, told the Irrawaddy that the allegations from the international community would likely be worse were it not for a commission headed by former UN chief Kofi Annan that is looking into long-term solutions for the state.
“The commission is serving as a shield for us. Was it not for [the] Kofi Annan commission, the allegations would be much worse, I think,” he said.
According to a World Food Programme survey earlier this month, starvation has become more widespread in northern Rakhine State in the wake of the crackdown. The July 5 report indicated that food security has rapidly deteriorated from its already precarious state before the security operation. Now, nearly one-third of the population is “severely food-insecure” and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. None of the children are obtaining the minimum adequate diet. WFP’s assessment indicated that an estimated 80,500 children under the age of 5 will need treatment for acute malnutrition within the next 12 months.
The Rakhine State Hluttaw approved the urgent proposal to upgrade security for the Rakhine ethnic population in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung with no objections.