By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER
NAY PYI TAW — The office of President U Htin Kyaw has designated a swathe of northern Rakhine State a “military operations area”, Frontier can reveal, in an apparent rebuff to calls from the Tatmadaw to have Maungdaw District placed under martial law.
U Zaw Htay, the spokesman for State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, told media on Monday that the office of military chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing had demanded the designation, which was agreed to by the President’s Office on August 25.*
He would not be drawn on other questions, including which townships would be subject to the designation, and how long it would remain in effect.
After the October 2016 attacks on security posts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the president granted permission for a military operations area designation for Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships.
During that time, over 1,500 dwellings and other buildings were burnt down, largely in Maungdaw, while nearly 90,000 members of the Rohingya community fled across the border into Bangladesh.
The military was accused of killing over 200 civilians and a litany of other abuses, according to testimony gathered by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.
In the 10 days since the most recent ARSA attacks on August 25, the number of refugees fleeing to Bangladesh has surpassed those who fled during the military’s five-month “clearance operations”, according to the latest UN figures. At least another 20,000 are believed stuck on the Myanmar side of the border seeking to cross the Naf River into Bangladesh.
Almost 20,000 Rakhine and other minority groups have fled south for the state capital Sittwe and further afield, the government says.
*CORRECTION: Frontier originally reported the designation had been given on Monday.