Parliament backs government on response to Rakhine crisis


NAY PYI TAW — The Pyithu Hluttaw has voted down a motion calling on increased security and protection for “ethnic people” in northern Rakhine, in an implicit endorsement of the government’s response to last year’s violence in the state.

The motion, proposed in early February by lawmakers from the Arakan National Party, was recorded in proceedings rather than endorsed, as military MPs joined forces with National League for Democracy members to vote it down on Tuesday.

During discussion, ANP lawmakers criticised the government’s Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD) for failing to accommodate “national ethnics” suffering from shortages of food and medicine in the state’s north.

U Hla Tun Kyaw (ANP, Maungdaw), said the UEHRD was spending billions of kyats “helping people coming illegally from another country” — a reference to the repatriation program for nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees to flee the area for Bangladesh since last August — without addressing the crisis facing “local national ethnics”, in reference to the ethnic communities officially recognised by the government.  

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Other ANP members said they were concerned UEHRD would move ahead with the repatriation program without taking into account the security of non-Muslim locals.  

“Local national ethnics were worriedly watching the plans of UEHRD and feared that terrorists might settle near them,” said U Pe Than (ANP, Myebon).

“Local national ethnics should receive a transparent explanation and authorities should collaborate with local national ethnics, drawing on their ideas for the problems that might come,” he added. “However skillful a climber is, he won’t climb up without a local guide.”

Lawmakers from the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the former governing party, supported the motion. U Sai Kyaw Moe (USDP, Mongpan) said the government should take into account what he alleged was a concerted movement to carve an “independent Muslim state” out of territory in northern Rakhine.

Members of the NLD countered that the government had acted transparently by releasing information on Rakhine State through the UEHRD’s website and over social media, noting that schools had reopened in areas hit by last year’s militant attacks and subsequent security crackdown, and that plans to increase electrification of the area were being fast-tracked.

“That the government is carrying out Rakhine affairs politically, internationally and performing all rounds for development of the state is simply not deniable,” said Daw Ni Ni May Myint. (NLD, Taungup)

Tatmadaw MPs said the Union and Rakhine State governments were working quickly to implement their plans for the area, but added the government should do more to communicate with “national ethnics” in northern Rakhine.

While the trust between the two communities were decreasing over many years, due to political instigations and rumors, doubts and hostility became severe, pointed out the Tatmadaw. “Living together in accord with the law between the two different communities can only support the perpetuation of sovereignty and territory and can also develop the interest of local ethnic people” said Lt. Col Khin Maung Than.

“Because it’s a union cause, the government should give priority to the interest of local ethnics and politicians should collaborate without exploiting any situation for their own advantage,” said military MP Lt. Col Khin Maung Than.

Dr Win Myat Aye, the Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and UEHRD vice chair, discussed plans for the construction of “national race” villages for officially recognised ethnic communities displaced by last years violence.

He said the project would be completed by the end of the year, along with electrification plans for Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships.

“The whole Rakhine State will receive unprecedented development,” he said. “We are performing for everyone, for the benefit of the whole state and for the whole union.”

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